"The only mammal with a black-tipped long tail is the mountain lion," said Ottmann, who has never seen one himself. "I get a lot of reports from construction workers on job sites in the morning in the Litchfield area. A farmer in Simsbury said he watched a mountain lion chase off a bear."
Ottmann is planning to post signs in Litchfield County offering a $50 reward for a confirmed photograph of a mountain lion in Connecticut.
Ottmann said roadkill isn't a valid measurement. "About 2 percent of cougars are killed by motor vehicles in states like California where they are confirmed," Ottmann said.
He claims DEP officials are covering up evidence they don't want to make public because it would involve the expense of a management plan.
If the eastern mountain lion is not extinct and a breeding population could be documented, the state would join with the federal government to develop a management plan, also known as a recovery plan, said Dale May, DEP Wildlife Division director. Data collection and oversight could be costly, May said.
McCollough doesn't believe his report, however scientific, will quiet believers.
"The next question is do they belong here if they aren't here yet and should they be introduced," he said. "There are plenty of deer for them to feed on but it's a far thornier question, socially and politically."