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Greenwich Daily Voice serves Greenwich, CT

Cougar Sightings Keep Greenwich Official Hopping

Joseph Cassone has acted as mountain lion sighting go-between for the state Department of Environmental Protection and Greenwich police since initial reports of a big cat began rolling in.

“In the past few days, every time I sit down to get to my other conservation work, the phone rings and there’s been another sighting,” said Cassone, town conservation assistant. “I can’t say this hasn’t been interesting and different. We’re used to deer and coyotes but not mountain lions.”

Cassone has created a map of the reports that includes the few confirmed sightings on King Street and the many more unconfirmed ones throughout the northeast section of Greenwich. “They are known to mark their territory by scratching a tree and urinating on it,” he said of the evidence he looks for. “We look for scat, hair, tracks … dogs can have similar [foot] pads, but the mountain lion’s are distinct.”

The most recent sighting was reported Wednesday at Partridge Hollow Lane near the border with North Castle, N.Y., where a woman was walking her dog in the woods and claimed she saw a mountain lion being chased by two basset hounds. The sighting has yet to be confirmed.

“We’ve had more than a few false alarms, and there’s a pretty good chance people are misidentifying what they’re seeing,” said Cassone, adding he couldn’t imagine basset hounds chasing a mountain lion. “One guy on Bearing Hill Road saw an animal he thought at first was a dog, or a coyote, then he said he looked at it again and said it was a puma. Without evidence we can’t confirm or deny.”

Last Saturday, a mountain lion was struck and killed on the Merritt Parkway in Milford. On Monday, the DEP said it believed that lion was the one seen in Greenwich. Meanwhile, the DEP said it would try to confirm that the animal killed on the Merritt was the one seen in Greenwich by comparing DNA from the animal to scat found alongside paw prints near Brunswick School on King Street. DEP officials said they would not confirm the existence of a second mountain lion without solid evidence.

There is no native population of mountain lions in Connecticut, though Cassone says the cougar killed Saturday may once have been a pet. In New York, it is legal to own a mountain lion if the owner has a permit. There are two legally owned cougars in the state. The DEP said those animals have not escaped.

What do you think of the mountain lion sightings? Leave a comment below.

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