Pictures of a dead mountain lion killed early Saturday morning in Milford, Connecticut, by a car remind Chicago readers of the one shot down in a Chicago neighborhood in April of 2008. Chicago police shot an errant cougar that had strayed all the way from the Black Hills of South Dakota through Wisconsin only to meet its untimely end in Chicago’s Roscoe Village neighborhood.
The 140 pound male mountain lion killed in Connecticut is most likely the same one that had been spotted in Greenwich earlier in the week. Like Illinois, mountain lions were thought to be extinct in Connecticut, so at the moment it is unclear where this one came from.
Authorities speculate this one possibly could have escaped or was released. The closest confirmed population is in Missouri. The key word here is confirmed as mountain lions are so elusive that even though the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Department declared them extinct earlier this year, there might still be a few stragglers hiding out in the Appalachians.
Male cougars have a tendency to roam to find new territory. When territories become saturated with cats young males will move to find new territory. If they go outside their usual territory where there are no females they will continue to wander until they find territory with females. This is why the Chicago cougar went so far. He never found the ladies, so he kept moving. Perhaps he thought he would find them in the big city.
They know this because DNA results matched with cougars found in South Dakota and it also matched with a cougar seen in Wisconsin. A hunter tracked cougar tracks into a barn. The cougar jumped off a second floor loft and cut its foot on a nail as it ran. They were able to get DNA from the blood and this sample matched with the one shot in Chicago.
It will be interesting to see the results from the dead cougar in Connecticut. They certainly will conduct an autopsy and it will be interesting to see if they can tell the origin of the cougar from the results.
The movement of cougars into areas where they have been absent for years is a recent phenomenon, but it will be one that continues. Both Wisconsin and Illinois DNR have met independently to deal with strategies to manage the animal when it returns: not if it returns.
Read the author’s other recent works about the return of the cougar:
Urban sprawl leads to an increase in wildlife encounters
Mountain lion spotted in Wisconsin could head to Chicago
Coyote, cougars, wolves oh my in Illinois and how to report
Cougar attacks heifer in Wisconsin and Indiana sighting indicate a future return to the Midwest
If it occurs, the future return of cougars to Wisconsin and Illinois is an exciting prospect. Many worry about the dangerous reputation of the big cat. Although there have been some high profile attacks in the past, there have been relatively few incidents in the past decade.
According to a website four people have died since 2001, but no one since 2008. There were only two attacks in 2010. These numbers may sound like too many, but it is interesting that with the cougar population growing and the amount of run ins between humans and cougars growing, the amount of attacks are actually declining.
In contrasts, there were twice as many human deaths due to cougar attacks in the 1990 with ten people getting killed according to this website. Perhaps the animal is learning to live more peacefully among humans.
For those interested in cougar stories check out the Eastern cougar website. They do a great job of uploading all pertinent news articles on cougars throughout the country.
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