Dead ‘mountain lion’ disappears on I-95

Rachael Scarborough King, Register Staff

GUILFORD — The case of the mysterious mountain lion shifted to Guilford Monday, as motorists on Interstate 95 reported sightings of a dead cougar on the side of the road.

But by the time the state Department of Transportation arrived at the scene, someone had absconded with the carcass, said Rachael Sunny, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Environmental Protection.

“We have no way to prove what it was,” Sunny said. “There are no naturally occurring mountain lions in the state of Connecticut, and it could just be a simple case of mistaken identity.”

In the last few weeks, several people have reported sightings of what they thought were mountain lions in Shelton. But Sunny said DEP officials have determined that animal was a misidentified pit bull dog.

“We’re not really sure of why there seems to be increased reports of sightings,” Sunny said.

Mountain lions, which are also known as cougars, pumas and panthers, are believed to have been almost exterminated east of the Mississippi, except for an endangered population in Florida, according to the Eastern Cougar Foundation. Although people continue to report sightings, the animals are extremely shy, making it difficult for biologists to confirm their existence in the East.

Sunny said the DEP had several calls Monday morning from people saying there was a dead mountain lion about one mile north of Exit 59 in the southbound lane of I-95. She added that her department asked the DOT office in Madison to recover the carcass, but it had disappeared.

“It is illegal for anyone to stop and just take a carcass from the side of the road,” Sunny said.

She added that the DEP usually does not investigate every call it gets regarding a sighting of a mountain lion. In the Shelton case, the department sent an environmental conservation police officer to look into the situation because there had been several reports from the same neighborhood.

“Generally, as far as reports that we get of sightings, we don’t send anybody out there unless it’s highly credible,” she said.

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