Re(4): Summary of the facts in New England
IP: 50.241.112.193


"Her den was a quarter mile from a dense development and 100 yards from a service road used by hundreds of walkers, runners, and cyclists every day."

A mountain lion den identified in Sterling, CT a few years ago was on the edge a farm and right next a well traveled secondary road. Witnesses saw the cougar behind a home across the street the previous fall and that winter residents on snow shoes tracked the cougar and a single kitten in deep snow to a den site; the tracks went in but didn't come out. They left immediately. The farmer recently commented that he couldn’t keep the dairy cows in the pasture on the north side of the road in spring time. It’s directly across from the den location. The herd repeatedly would knock his fences down and retreat to the barn. Photos of the den site were taken although at that point it had not been used in several years. The location is a few miles west from Coventry, RI where a few years earlier, a cougar was observed killing a deer. Several days later locals attempted to locate the remains and recover other possible evidence. Cougar tracks were positively identified by two experienced naturalists (one wrote a best selling tracking guide book) but the attempt to photograph the tracks in snow ultimately failed. The carcass was taken away the day before and apparently given to the needy. Attempts to gain access to it were not successful. Coyotes took the entrails and head. The witnesses reported finding large puncture wounds in the neck and a circular area of fur about 8 inches in diameter near the rib cage had been removed prior to his arrival at the kill. This are typical of cougar predation. The cougar fled before he appeared on the scene but he got a good view of it when it made the first of three attempts to take the deer over a distance of several hundred feet before the puma succeeded in knocking the deer off it’s feet and administering the fatal bite. The witness was armed at the time and not concerned for his safety. He followed the tracks in the snow to the kill site.

Last year two cougar kittens were seen by a couple in SNE watching deer and turkeys in a pasture less than 30 feet from their parked car in late afternoon. The size, shape, length of tail, color of eyes (blue) and other descriptions eliminate bobcat kittens as a possible explanation. The site is rural/suburban but houses dot the landscape and many other dwellings are within a mile of that location. Numerous sighting reports dating back thirty years originate from this general location, including one by this latest witness of an adult cougar in his backyard in 2006. He lives a half mile away. The Matunuck deer kill site is 5 miles south from this incident. Other examples of these kinds of reports are no longer rare in the Northeast so we enthusiastically agree with you that cougars sometimes leave their kittens near developed areas and we are pleased to report they are doing it here. We can also state without hesitation that cougars in New England are doing some of the same things you observed in California but not as often. We would not expect to find just as many examples of this behavior locally as you might find in California, however, because New England is half the size of California and has a different habitat, it’s in the midst of a puma reoccupation and doesn’t have an established cougar population that rivals CA in numbers (CA has between 4-6,000, depending on which source you want to believe, not counting floaters, recruits, or juveniles which suggest a much higher total). In addition, California mountain lions were never extirpated from the state like those in SNE or driven to single digits like those in the Northeast. New England has had a completely different experience with lions. No one thinks our total is anywhere near that huge number even counting all of eastern Canada. The only estimate available from the East are from Ontario where Stuart Keen believes the province may have 800 individuals. That’s based upon sighting reports and a considerable body of evidence but even the Provincial officials acknowledge that an established population now exists in Ontario. Given the estimates, public statements by officials and the wide distribution of both reports and evidence, we may safely assume the population contains a number of females and that natural reproduction is taking place. Mountain lions in nearby provinces have also been confirmed from research projects and all of these places are within easy walking distance from SNE. The origins of these animals include some of SA ancestry but not all of them which leaves the door open to the possibility that a handful of eastern cats survived into modern times. As you are well aware, Canada is eastern cougar country, which is one reason skeptics wishing to draw attention away from this area (and Michigan as well) often make reference to the latest research in the mid-west or Florida but rarely mention Gauthier or Bertrand. Canadian discoveries make eastern wildlife folks nervous and their allies in the public sector avoid any discussion of New Brunswick or Quebec where evidence has been found that can’t be dismissed. The same people make questionable statements like ”cougars can walk thirty miles a day... they can easily reach Milford”, for example, which ignores actual dispersal rates that are less than 3 miles per day. All of these efforts are obvious distractions which in legal terms are referred to as a “red herring”.

While we are enjoy reading the the accounts of tracking cats in the West we are all curious why anyone would spend so much time and effort elsewhere while so much is happening in Canada which directly effects us here in New England. Perhaps you may wish to re-center your efforts to promising locations just to the north of us which has so much potential for research. Sue Morse has identified eastern Canada as a possible migration source for lions to northern New England and New York because it so close to the border and more importantly has an established breeding population. We are curious why you haven’t accepted her thesis yet since it makes so much sense to everyone else. Are you prepared to acknowledge that? To be sure, much can be learned about cougars in the West by attending mountain lions conferences and workshops or reading the PDFs from earlier ones that are available on line. You may want to explore both avenues to increase your understanding of cougar behavior. Sharing your thoughts with supportive collogues in West Virginia probably strengthens you resolve to go it alone in the face of criticism. I suspect that common sense will eventually prevail, however. Your practical experience will come in handy in the future when trackers actually start following cougars on the ground in NE like Bill Williams did many years ago in SA. Were it not for the fact that so much of the landscape in New England is covered by several inches or leaves and pine needles and so few trained individuals are available to spot cougar tracks in snow, we might have more evidence to examine and more opportunities to attempt such a project. For the time being we much rely, in part, on the observations of police, Animal Control Officers, state officials, college professors, Fish and wildlife officer, biologists and in a few instances the directors of environmental protection agencies who report their sightings. Even anal retentive skeptics will accept these as a confirmation. When USFW gets around to taking the eastern cougar off the ESL and states start managing lions, agency employees will be tasked to locate evidence and they will succeed in this effort- just like they did in Michigan. And we won’t have to guess whether there are 200 mountain lines in CT....... or just 100.





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