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This post originally appeared on the Keystone Society for Rational Inquiry blog.

In a followup to this story Connecticut officials have reported some “amazing” news.

…they said that the Connecticut Cougar had made its way east from the Black Hills of South Dakota and that genetic testing matched samples of an animal confirmed as having been in Wisconsin and Minnesota.

That means that the animal traveled more than 1,500 miles to Connecticut, more than twice as far as the longest dispersal pattern ever recorded for a mountain lion. The news stunned researchers trying to make sense of the first confirmed presence of the species in Connecticut in more than a century. Many believed that the animal must have been released or had escaped from captivity.

Daniel C. Esty, commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, said that the journey was a remarkable and positive reminder of the ability of wild animals to survive and adapt, but that there was no evidence that mountain lions were returning to the state.

“This is the first evidence of a mountain lion making its way to Connecticut from western states, and there is still no evidence indicating that there is a native population of mountain lions in Connecticut,” he said.

But the finding may add at least a smidgen of mystery or paranoia to dozens of reports of similar creatures in Connecticut and the Northeast, most of them investigated and then dismissed as mistaken impressions. Before the animal was reported seen in early June in Greenwich, the last confirmed sighting of a mountain lion in Connecticut was in the late 1800s.

This news means that the animal passed through Pennsylvania en route to Connecticut.

What does this mean for the many sightings reported to the Pennsylvania Game Commission? Well, it does not mean that many (or any) cougars are here. It does mean that at least one lone individual (but likely more) are roaming through the state. It is a far bigger reach to say that a breeding population exists. There still is no evidence for that.

It’s important to not go beyond what the evidence tells us but this is a VERY encouraging sign that the big cats are finding PA and the northeast an inviting place to visit. Perhaps not everyone agrees, but my opinion is that they are entitled to return to recolonize the land from which we exterminated them. What remains to be seen is will they succeed and will we accept them back?

UPDATE: The PA Game Commission concludes that the cat likely went the northern route through Canada rather than through PA. That’s plausible but as one goes, the others may also go and take a different path. I’m still encouraged by this news.

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