Every few months, reports of mountain lion sightings hit the Connecticut news, and for good reason. Mountain lions are elusive and dangerous animals. But, is there any truth to those stories?
This article will cover everything you need to know about mountain lions in CT, including past sightings and what to do if you encounter a mountain lion.
Does Connecticut Have Mountain Lions?
A mountain lion is a relatively large animal. Most male mountain lions weigh about 150 pounds (some can exceed 200) and can grow up to 8 feet from nose to tail.
Although attacks on humans are rare, they can be fatal. That’s why it’s important to know if these animals are living in our backyards. So, are there mountain lions in Connecticut?
The official answer from Connecticut’s Wildlife Division is that there is not a population of mountain lions currently in Connecticut. However, there have been confirmed sightings in the past. There are also plenty of unconfirmed sightings each year.
While it’s very unlikely that you’ll encounter a mountain lion in Connecticut, it’s not impossible. So in the next section, I’ll cover what to do in case you do find yourself face-to-face with a mountain lion.
What to do if you see a Mountain Lion?
If you do see a mountain lion, it’s important that you know exactly what to do. Here are some tips to survive a confrontation with a mountain lion.
- Never approach a mountain lion. In most circumstances, they will avoid confrontation themselves.
- Do not run. It may trigger the mountain lion’s instinct to chase.
- Remain facing the cat at all times.
- Try to appear bigger by raising your hands over your head and opening a jacket if you have one.
- Be as loud as possible.
- Try throwing objects in the mountain lion’s direction as warning shots. If it continues to advance on you, start throwing hard objects directly at the animal.
- If the mountain lion attacks you, fight back aggressively with anything you can get your hands on. Do your best to stay standing since mountain lions usually try to bite the head or neck.
Less than 25% of reported mountain lion attacks are fatal, so you have a good chance of fighting back. Many people have even thwarted mountain lion attacks with their bare hands.
Mountain Lion Sightings in CT
There are usually about 50-100 mountain lion sightings reported every year. However, the last confirmed mountain lion sighting in Connecticut was in 2011. That mountain lion was hit by a car and killed on the Merritt Parkway in Milford, CT.
After the incident, Connecticut environmental officials were able to determine that the 140-pound cat had likely traveled over 1,500 miles from South Dakota. It was simply a dispersing mountain lion looking for a mate. It couldn’t find one so it kept traveling east, which is a good sign since it means that mountain lions aren’t breeding in CT.
Before the mountain lion encounter in Milford, the last confirmed mountain lion in New England was last seen nearly 100 years ago.
Bobcats vs Mountain Lions
Although there likely aren’t any Connecticut mountain lions, the state does have a thriving bobcat population. In fact, it’s suspected that most mountain lion sightings reported in CT are actually bobcats.
A bobcat is much smaller than a mountain lion, but they’re still 2 to 3 times the size of domestic cats. Bobcats can weigh up to 40 pounds and have been found in every town in CT.
Bobcats aren’t usually a threat to people, but they are known to prey on domestic animals and livestock. If you want to learn more about bobcats in CT, I wrote a more in-depth article here.
When did Mountain Lions Go Extinct in CT
CT mountain lions are believed to have gone extinct in the late 1800s. There are two prevailing theories of why this happened.
One, mountain lions were seen as a threat to livestock (which they are) and were hunted to extinction in the state. And two, the population of white-tailed deer become so low that mountain lions ran out of food.
Whatever the reason, it’s clear that the Connecticut mountain lion population today is either zero, or at least very close to zero (if one managed to wander across the country again).
States with Healthy Mountain Lion Populations
There is only one state on the east coast with a breeding population of mountain lions, and that’s Florida. Florida has an estimated 100 and 300 active mountain lions.
Aside from Florida, no states east of Texas have a documented population of breeding mountain lions.
The remaining mountain lion population in the United States is found on the west coast, with the highest concentration being found in California and Colorado. Both of those states have an estimated population of 3,000 to 7,000.
CT Mountain Lions – Final Thoughts
Whether you want to call them mountain lions, cougars, pumas, or panthers (they are all the same animal), it’s unlikely that they are making a home in CT. The chances are good that most mountain lion sightings are just misidentified bobcats.
However, if you do think you spot a cougar, reporting it to the DEEP Wildlife Division of CT will help shed some more light on the issue. The officials at the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (or DEEP) are responsible for tracking animal sightings, not the police.