Southeastern CT Residents: Assist our Research

There have been numerous reports consistent with a mountain lion in the region encompassing Ledyard, N. Stonington, Stonington, Old Mystic,and Groton along route 184. See the recent article in the New London Day by Stacey Catalfamo “Are There Mountain Lions in North Stonington?”

We at Cougars of the Valley have placed and monitor trail cameras on private property in Stonington, Old Mystic, and Ledyard attempting to capture definitive video evidence of a mountain lion in the area. We have yet to capture one on video, but our efforts continue and will soon expand.

We welcome and encourage your participation, and appreciate the numerous land owners who have allowed us access to place trail cameras to support our research.

You can help us! If you are a sportsman who uses a trail camera during the season, keep it up year round on game trails. If you capture pics/video of a wild cat, forward to us for identification. The more trail cams in the field the better.

There has not been a definitive video/photo of a wild mountain lion in CT. A couple of pnotos were obtained in fairfield county prior to the mountain lion being struck by a car in Milford, CT 6/2011 and DEEP associates those photos with that single ML.

Make sure your trail camera is positioned to capture enough backgroung features to allow for proving the location of the photo. i.e. Avoid placing angled down towards an open grassy field that would not allow for location confirmation.

email any photos or questions to Bo Ottman cougarsofthevalley@hotmail.com

Night Video From Our Trail Cam Test Site

For those of you following the start up of our trail camera program, here is a new video myself and Bo Ottman retrieved off one of the three camera sites we have working in Canton this evening.

This video shows a Bobcat at night responding to a distressed prey call. Turn your volume up and you can hear the prey call (distressed rabbit simulator) at the 4 second and 40 second marks. The cat has it’s tail moving, and he is intently watching the brush about 5 feet forward and to the left of the cat where the call is located.

Here is a link to the video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=drnWU2ykLyk&list=UUTZ6FNRUWnEMy3EfhU17nIw&index=1&feature=plcp

We are looking forward to launching our wider trail cam effort very shortly, and will set a link to our youtube page so everyone can follow our progress.

Dr. John Pettini

Important Trail Camera Initiative, Please Read!

To all followers of Cougars of the Valley (COV):

Cougars of the Valley (COV) is preparing to launch a major new initiative to document undisputed evidence of a wild Mountain Lion population within our State. I am a volunteer field researcher (Biologist and Physician) working directly with Bo Ottmann the founder and director of this great organization. We have been in the field together trialing camera trap methods that have been successful in many regions and research projects to document big cats.

Cougars are the most elusive of all the wild cats, rarely seen even in areas where their numbers are great. Bobcats are also quite difficult to lure in front of a trail camera. Engaging methods from other research studies, we have been quite successful in our efforts. In the past four weeks, we have captured on high definition trail cameras 5 different bobcats at three camera sites.

Here is a link to a rare, up close daytime video of a large bobcat at one of our monitoring sites in Canton, CT :

I post not only for your enjoyment of seeing this majestic cat, but to also demonstrate the clarity of our high definition cameras which lend to precise identification of the animal.

We are so encouraged by our results (more video links posted below) Bo has agreed to move forward with a major coordinated trail camera effort aimed at clearly documenting our cougar population.

COV will be announcing a fund raising campaign through the web site indiegogo.com with the goal of raising enough money to equip our team of field researchers with at least 20 of these trail cameras. With our methods of visual and olfactory lures in combination with multiple camera sites, we are highly confident of success.

We truly appreciate all the support you can give to this very exciting initiative and plan to regularly share progress reports with the loyal followers of this site and on our facebook page.

Stay tuned for more details and KEEP POSTING YOUR SIGHTINGS REPORTS! We leave you with some of our recent trail camera captures…Enjoy.

Bobcat at Night: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fsn1YTXoYaQ&feature=plcp

Up close bobcat Simsbury: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lF6KECnYpfM&feature=plcp

Curious Bear Touches our Camera: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TLwGeDv5nWk&feature=plcp

Coyote in Day time: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YQgtz4ofCEM&feature=plcp

Take care, your comments are welcome and appreciated.

Dr. John Pettini

Daytime bobcat rubbing: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XaCmwyCXt-M&feature=plcp

Moving to a new host, hopefully will not get hacked again.

Moved site to a new hosting company this week. Over the last few weeks we seem to have been getting hacked every few days. The hack consisted of a string of code added to some of our files, and that code would force mostly Internet Explorer users to redirect to different bad sites. I don’t think the hack was specifically targeted at ctmountainlion.org, but instead was a server breach hurting many sites including ours.

The initial response from the hosting company was that the cause was probably bad code on our site, maybe a vulnerable wordpress plugin. Which didn’t really make sense, as many other sites that didn’t use wordpress were also compromised. In either case no matter what I have tried, nothing seem to have any effect, we got hacked again and again.

So hopefully moving to a new server will do the trick.

The Connecticut Mountain Lion Conflict

by Pete Mauerman

original article

“I think what’s gonna happen is – and it’s just human nature – once somebody gets attacked or has an encounter that they [the United States Fish and Wildlife/Department of Environmental Protection (US F&w/DEP)] can’t cover up…they’re gonna have to do the management plan,” explained Bo Ottman before we entered one of his Cougars of the Valley (CoV) lectures on mountain lions at Ludlowe Middle School in Fairfield, Connecticut.

Ottman’s lecture was sponsored by the Connecticut Audubon Society and was presented by Ottman’s lecture partner, Rhode Island resident Bill Betty, another expert on mountain lions. Ottman, a 40-year-old resident of North Canton, is the founder of the CoV initiative, an organization devoted to researching the repopulation of mountain lions in the Northeast, educating the public, addressing their concerns and expressing the mountain lion’s value as a species.

There have been growing suspicions about mountain lion repopulation in Connecticut; there was the “Milford Cougar” incident back in June when a car hit and killed a mountain lion in Milford, and there have been many reported sightings of mountain lions throughout the state. The state quickly denied the Milford cougar native legitimacy by claiming its origins were from South Dakota, a fact determined by DNA tests, according to state environmental officials. In fact, US F&W declared the eastern mountain lion to be extinct in March of this year, and a mountain lion spotted in Greenwich was said by DEP Deputy Commissioner Susan Frechette to be one that had been released from captivity.

“…the Milford kill was just another classic cover-up of their [US F&W/DEP] laziness to the public,” Ottman said.

Ottman recently called Paul Rego of the DEP requesting the results of the DNA test.

 

“25 years ago the state denied the presence of black bears, and everybody that called up the hotline would say, ‘I just saw a black bear,’ and the DEP would tell’ya, ‘No it’s just a big dog’. They finally had to admit it about 15 to 20 years later, and now they have a management plan, and black bears are being tagged, and the ones that are troublesome are moved further away from the habitat, and it’s going to be the same thing with mountain lions.”

-Bo Ottman, founder of Cougars of the Valley

 

A Connecticut map of reported sightings on Cougars of the Valley.
“…the results came back that [there was a] 67% chance that it came from South Dakota,” Ottman explained, but went on to suggest that the DNA test doesn’t necessarily mean the cougar came from South Dakota – it could just mean its bloodline originated in South Dakota.

In comparison to the ongoing battle Ottman fights to convince the DEP that mountain lions are breeding in the Northeast, he recalled how the black bear, now recognized in Connecticut, received similar treatment.

“25 years ago the state denied the presence of black bears, and everybody that called up the hotline would say, ‘I just saw a black bear,’ and the DEP would tell’ya, ‘No it’s just a big dog,” he said. “They didn’t want to deal with it then. They finally had to admit it about 15 to 20 years later, and now they have a management plan, and black bears are being tagged, and the ones that are troublesome are moved further away from the habitat, and it’s going to be the same thing with mountain lions.”

Could it be possible that the western subspecies of mountain lions are making their way east and breeding? It is not as if they are migrating to an inhospitable Saharan Desert ecosystem – according to Ottman, New England is a “country club” for mountain lions. There is plenty of brush cover for hunting, a suitable climate and an endless supply of white-tail deer (a mountain lion’s main food source). Connecticut has one of the highest populations of white-tail deer New England, and every year the population of white-tail deer increase exponentially. According to a 2000 report from the Connecticut Wildlife Division, the population of deer had increased to an estimated 76,344 from 53,955 in 1996.

The increased sightings of mountain lions in Connecticut over the past several years has led Ottman and many other researchers to believe that they are becoming habituated to human territory in both urban and suburban areas.

In an interview, Southport resident Jason Grant, 31, recalled his experience of seeing a mountain lion last November.

“I was driving down Valley Forge Road in Redding, and on the side of the road there was this mountain lion slowly walking into the road, so I slowed down and it ran across the road back into the woods,” he recalled. “So I immediately texted Krista [his wife] and told her, ‘I think a mountain lion just ran in front of my car.’” He remains adamant about the accuracy of his sighting as he claims the mountain lion passed only “10 or 15 feet in front [of the car].”

Ottman asserts that an increased mountain lion presence is both beneficial and detrimental to humans and our environment.

 

“The whole ecosystem flourishes when you have a top predator living amongst us, trees and rivers will do well, small mammals will do well, even the human beings will do well.”

 

“When you have nature’s perfect predator, such as the mountain lion, living with us, he controls the whole flow of the food chain,” Ottman expained. “The whole ecosystem flourishes when you have a top predator living amongst us, trees and rivers will do well, small mammals will do well, even the human beings will do well. It’s a proven fact that when you have a top predator living among us the ecosystem flourishes…the downside of having mountain lions is the fear factor, but that’s why we educate them [the public].”

In order for the DEP and US F&G to take action on the mountain lion population, they need physical evidence that the Northeastern mountain lion population is breeding. If it is determined that mountain lions are indeed breeding in Connecticut, then the DEP will be forced to employ a management system that includes educating local officials on mountain lions, designing procedures for handling mountain lions, trapping and tagging, creating population reports, and public education campaigns, all of which involves spending state money.

It’s very costly,” said Ottman. “Every state; you’re looking at half a billion dollars…for initial set-up…you’d have to hire the western biologists to come here [to train local officials].”

“At one point Florida spent $1.3 billion in a single year [on mountain lion management],” Betty added.

Betty’s lecture and Ottman’s organization was informative and gave the audience all the need to know facts about mountain lions, their habits, how to discourage their presence, and protocol to follow if one finds themselves in contact with “nature’s perfect predator”.

However, Ottman assured the audience that they shouldn’t worry too much about attacks.

“They tend to avoid human contact at all costs,” he explained. “They’re going to let their presence be known if they see you and you see them. As far as the mountain lion is concerned, that’s his territory too, just because you bought the property doesn’t mean it’s yours.”

This is the main reason Ottman and his organization educate the public: with the mountain lion’s food source (white-tail deer) being in such close proximity to human dwellings, it is inevitable for mountain lions to come into contact with humans at one point or another.

Website stats

last 30 days - from December 18 to January 18, 2012

CTmountainlion.org has grown. In 2011 – 111,748 pages where viewed by 34,804 visitors.

All credit goes to our community. Thanks to you, the grassroots movement of your continued involvement and support, we will have an impact on survival and protection of these beautiful animals and education of citizens on dangers of an encounter.

We’re excited to see that so many credible eye witness accounts are coming in. We’re all here because we believe, that truth will be revealed soon.

Mountain lion fever has some in Conn. calling for answers

Sightings in Greenwich and around state fuel residents’ search for answers about mountain lions

Original article

by Frank MacEachern, Staff Writer, greenwichtime.com

When a possible mountain lion sighting in Greenwich was reported in early June of last year, many in town took the news with trepidation.

Peter Alexander was excited.

“I think it’s fabulous that mountain lions would return here,” the Pemberwick resident said.

Alexander lives along the Byram River, whose watershed provides a natural superhighway for wildlife that has slowed in recent decades, he said. Alexander wants to see that traffic rev up once again, and one of the creatures he’d like to make the trip more often is the mountain lion.

Not only does Alexander believe mountain lions are present in New England, he wants to see them re-established in the state.

“I would encourage the concept of bringing back more species, including mountain lions and wolves,” he said. “They do get bad press, including eating children sometimes, which is pretty bad. I am not trying to downplay the tragedy, but they are part of the natural environment.”
Continued reports of mountain lion sightings across the state have sparked massive interest in the animals, long thought to be extinct in New England. A dedicated group of big-cat enthusiasts is pushing for the state’s legislators to investigate the reports.

Alexander is one of hundreds of people to have signed an online petition asking the state legislature to hold a public hearing on mountain lions — also known as cougars — in Connecticut following a 2011 filled with reported sightings in the state, including one in which a mountain lion was seen stalking the grounds of Brunswick School’s King Street campus last June.

Some of the signers, like Alexander, welcome the presence of the animals, while others dread the stealthy predators’ place among us.

Debate continues to rage between state officials, who maintain that there are no native-bred mountain lions in Connecticut, and those who claim the opposite, pointing to numerous sightings over many years.

BELIEVERS AND SKEPTICS

Bo Ottmann, a Canton resident and founder of Cougars of the Valley, a group dedicated to tracking mountain lion sightings, is a true believer.

“People need to be aware we have a top predator living amongst us,” Ottmann said. “Mountain lions are being habituated. They are feeling comfortable living in our communities.”

As of this week, 220 people had signed the petition on the Cougars of the Valley website, ctmountainlion.org. Some signatures include reports of sightings. Others offer opinions on the pros and cons of mountain lions in the state.
The website includes a map of the state showing dozens of reported sightings, from the Gold Coast to the Quiet Corner in the northeast. And that doesn’t count the hundreds of mountain lion reports the state receives every year.

State officials believe the mountain lion seen in Greenwich on June 5 is the same one that was struck and killed on Route 15 in Milford on June 11. Following tests on the dead mountain lion, the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection said the animal likely originated from South Dakota.

Ottmann is skeptical that the mountain lion made the voyage from the upper Midwest to the East Coast.

“Did it come directly from South Dakota? We will never know,” Ottmann said. “Its bloodline came from South Dakota, that’s all I know.”

Ottmann is confident mountain lions are breeding in New England, possibly through a mixture of western mountain lions and a native eastern population that somehow survived even after they were declared extinct.
Alexander said he could see that scenario, or simply that mountain lions are traveling through the area after making their way from Canada or the Midwest. Either way he’s thrilled about the prospect.

“The fact that we may have a population and may have always had a population, I am totally pumped up about that,” he said.

State officials counter that there is no native mountain lion population.

“We have not seen any credible evidence to back up reports of mountain lions,” said DEEP spokesman Dennis Schain, referring to reported sightings other than the one in Greenwich.

Ottmann said the department is too quick to dismiss the reports.

“Every time a person calls them, they are being told they are not seeing what they are seeing,” he said.

COUGAR MOVEMENT

The author of a book on mountain lions admits there may be a breeding population of cougars in this part of the continent, but said they would be in isolated areas of northern Maine, or in the Canadian provinces of New Brunswick and Quebec. Robert Tougias, whose book “The Quest for the Eastern Cougar” was published last September, said there is no evidence to support any breeding population in Connecticut and southern New England, even if it seems plausible.
“Some people just flat out believe there is an established cougar population living in southern New England and wildlife officials are covering it up and don’t want to acknowledge it,” Tougias said. “It kind of makes sense, but when you look into it, it kind of doesn’t hold up too well.”

Tougias, who lives in Colchester, said he first became intrigued by mountain lions while growing up in Massachusetts. That interest was heightened when, while living in Vermont, he discovered large paw prints near his cabin that he believed could have been made by mountain lions.

While he discounts a native population in southern New England, Tougias believes there could be some breeding occurring between either escaped or released mountain lions of South American origin and those that have traveled here from the Midwest.

DNA recovered from mountain lion hair snares in eastern Canada has shown the animals are genetically linked to western or South American mountain lions, he said. The South American creatures have either been released or escaped into the wild, Tougias said.

Any male mountain lions passing through Connecticut are looking to find a mate and establish a territory, Tougias said. Such animals are usually from the South Dakota area, he said.

A burgeoning population in the Midwest is forcing males to move farther away from their original regions, Tougias said. But while the males will travel great distances, females don’t, leaving the lovelorn male mountain lion searching farther and farther afield.

Tougias was surprised when the mountain lion appeared in Connecticut last year. He and others in the mountain lion field believed they would eventually make their way to the East Coast, but not so quickly.

He, like Alexander, supports the idea of reintroducing mountain lions, in part to act as a brake on the increasing population of deer, which mountain lions hunt.

Ottmann is opposed, contending that a few mountain lions would have little impact on the deer population. There is also the concern about public safety.

Reported sightings often spike after initial news reports when people who see something unusual believe it is a mountain lion, Tougias said.

“The animal is automatically going to be assumed to be the most wild and the most rare and what they have read about, and that is the cougar,” he said.

SUPPORT FOR A HEARING?

The four members of Greenwich’s state delegation have mixed feelings about the idea of a committee hearing on mountain lions.

“I don’t think there is enough evidence of mountain lions that demands the need for a hearing,” Rep. Lile Gibbons, R-150th District, said.

Sen. L. Scott Frantz, R-36th District, is also cool to the idea of legislative hearings.

“I think to jump right in and have a hearing may be an inefficient use of our time,” he said. “What would be the point of the hearing? We can’t legislate the cats out of the state.”

Cougars of the Valley members could meet with co-chairs of the public safety committee to present their evidence, Frantz said. He also suggested that DEEP could write a short report on the topic to be made available to the public and to legislators.

Rep. Livvy Floren, R-149th District, said that holding a committee hearing is expensive and time consuming.
“I would have to see if it is a cost-effective measure,” she said.

The issue of mountain lions is best left to the professionals in DEEP, Floren said.

The most receptive of the group is Rep. Alfred Camillo, R-151st District, who said he is open to a committee hearing on the matter.

“I would certainly keep an open mind to it because I am fascinated by it,” said Camillo, who doubts that a hearing would occur anytime soon.

“I think as far as having hearings right now, if I am the only legislator who is interested in it, that answers your question,” he said with a laugh. “But I think there is something out there.”

Schain said DEEP would be open to a legislative hearing.

“We welcome full discussion of the subject of mountain lions, whether or not they are present in Connecticut,” he said.

THE CHASE CONTINUES

Following the June 5 sighting in Greenwich and another reported sighting on June 12 on North Street, Audubon Greenwich closed its sanctuary as a precaution. No evidence, such as droppings called scat, or photographs established whether a mountain lion had been on John Street, authorities said.

Audubon Greenwich spokesman Jeff Cordulack said there is little talk about mountain lions by visitors who stop in at the center.

“It has largely been forgotten, but every so often we are asked if we have seen any more mountain lions,” he said.
Ottmann, who operates a landscaping business, said he became interested in mountain lions after hearing a talk four years ago by William Betty, a Rhode Island resident who researches mountain lion sightings.

Now the two mountain lion enthusiasts team up for lectures. They will speak at Audubon Greenwich on March 24.
Ottman said his mountain lion quest is exciting.

“It’s the chase,” he said. “It is kind of like gold fever. It’s a lot of fun.”

— Staff Writer Frank MacEachern can be reached at frank.maceachern@scni.com or 203-625-4434.

Colin McEnroe Show: Are Wild Mountain Lions Back In Connecticut?

original post

Most people want to believe there’s a breeding population of mountain lions spreading through parts of Connecticut and into New York’s Hudson Valley.

People root for this to be the case. We want to believe that where we live is not completely tame – that there’s a whiff of wildness and mystery to boring old Connecticut. And what could be wilder and more mysterious than mountain lions?

If you’re a Connecticut mountain lion believer, you’re not alone. I’ve been poking around, off and on, for more than a decade, and it’s pretty easy to find people who think they’ve seen a cougar in Winsted or Litchfield.

In the past two weeks, mountain lion fever reached a new high. People saw a mountain lion in Greenwich. Then a motorist hit and killed one in Milford. Escaped pets? A native population? a Hybrid of the two?

Colin McEnroe Show 06-20-2011 "Colin McEnroe Show 06-20-2011"
Colin McEnroe Show 06-20-2011 "Colin McEnroe Show 06-20-2011"

Mountain lions in Connecticut? – REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN

State says no, but hundreds say they’ve seen them

BY BRIGITTE RUTHMAN | REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN

Kim DaVino-Garcia believes what she saw was a mountain lion. It was early August when a large, tawny-colored cat with a long tail crept into the pasture where she keeps a half-dozen horses off Newcomb Road in Goshen.

She believes what she heard — a piercing shriek in advance of the attack which left a 16-hand quarter horse, Bandit, with deep gouges on its neck and hindquarters.
Continue reading “Mountain lions in Connecticut? – REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN”

Cougars of the Valley on FarmingtonValley.Net

Last year I reported on an email hoax titled, “Here Kitty, Kitty” which purportedly showed a mountain lion looking through a glass door in Simsbury. That email was in fact a hoax.

Last week I met with Bo Ottmann, the founder of a local organization called Cougars of the Valley. Bo is convinced that Mountain Lions are established and do exist in Connecticut and he is out to prove it. Bo is soliciting the public and offering a $50.00 reward to anyone who photographs a mountain lion with an identifiable Connecticut landscape.

In an article titled “Connecticut Cougars: State Biologist Insist there Aren’t Any Despite Many Reported Sighting” published by the Hartford Courant last January, staff writer Steve Grant explores the possibility. A more recent article titled, “Mountain Lions in Connecticut” written by Brigitte Ruthman and published in the Republican American also explores the possibility that Mountain Lions do exist in Connecticut. Both articles include interviews from Connecticut State Biologist Paul Rego, who adamantly denies the possibility of Mountain Lions in Connecticut and Bo Ottmann who insist that they do inhabit Connecticut.

Continue…