My heart skipped a beat as I read the email from the resident biologist. It wasn’t sentimental words and romantic thoughts that set my heart aflutter this time. The cause of my near heart failure was the news the cougar killed in Connecticut last month was not the presumed captive cat who had escaped his owners, but a wild feline visitor from across the country.
According to a press release from the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP), “Results of genetic tests show that the mountain lion killed in Milford, Conn. in June made its way to the state from the Black Hills region of South Dakota and is an animal whose movements were actually tracked and recorded as it made its way through Minnesota and Wisconsin.”
This cat had traveled a long way to check out the spiffy homes in Greenwich.
It appears DNA from the cat in question was collected in Minnesota and Wisconsin as the happy wanderer made its way across the country in late 2009 through early 2010. This tidbit of information caught my attention as I realized I might appear a tasty tidbit to a hungry traveling cougar. My heart nearly stopped as I recalled dinner-time stories of mountain lion sightings in the Adirondacks last year. Indeed, the record reveals four different reports from people who saw a cougar in the Adirondacks from June through December 2010. The reported sightings follow a path from the northwest part of New York State to southeast, in chronological order. You don’t have to use Mapquest to figure out this is on the way to Connecticut.
Although it does not matter if a puma encountered on the trail is an escaped pet or a native wild animal on a cross country vacation, I am agitated by the news. I am not a cat person. I harbor a deep fear of cats which likely stems from my life with Kitty-roo, a friend’s cat whose early morning, hissing, ankle-scratching behavior literally scarred me for life. As News Director for a local radio station, my first job out of college, I was supposed to be ‘on air’ at the ridiculous hour of 6:30 a.m. This was no small task for a recent college graduate still living with buddies. Mornings were a challenge, even without a cranky, nasty, fat cat who hid under the kitchen cabinets and swiped my ankles as I stumbled through my morning routine. I digress, but I don’t like cats, especially not ones hiding under cabinets or behind the trees on my trail runs.
I’ve been asked not to ‘harp on the people stalking’ aspect of cougars in the Adirondacks, so I won’t. But if you encounter one, yell, throw things at it, and fight back. But don’t let the news keep you out of the woods.
The pictured map shows the route this predator could have traveled. It appears we can no longer count on splendid isolation and complete solitude during Adirondack trail runs and cross-country ski excursions. We may think we are alone, but cougars are large cats who stealthily stalk their prey. A runner would probably not know if an over-sized Kitty-roo were tailing her.
Like our western counterparts, we humans are no longer at the top of the food chain in the Adirondacks.
Map image property of Adirondack Lifestyle and Joann Sandone Reed.