Do Mountain Lions Roam CT? Expert Says: Hard to Hide a 120 Pound Predator
My name is Lou Milano and I am the co-host of the I-95 Morning Show.
If I had to best describe our show, I'd steal a line from Cosmo Kramer and say, "it's the new format, scandals and animals." This is not a desperate attempt to force a Seinfeld reference into this article, that is really what the show is about.
Recently, we were talking with our animal expert Jen the Zookeeper and the topic shifted from bears to mountain lions. This afforded me the opportunity to end an age-old internet debate about mountain lions in the Nutmeg State. Are there, or aren't there mountain lions stalking their prey in CT? We asked Jen Kotkin, this question, this was her response:
Connecticut is a pretty dense state but it's also a pretty little state as compares to say, California. It's pretty hard to hide a 120 pound mammal who is a silence predator, who hunts everything that it can. So, I think it is possible but I think it has been since the 1800's or 1900's when the last one was seen but you never know. It's important to find your knowledge based information about these animals and if they're here or not. I just don't know, I don't think they are and I think people would have seen them. But it is important to not spread rumors about what may be out there. I did have a conversation with someone the other day actually who said "I just saw a mountain lion." I said hey, I don't know you but can we talk quick? Is that what you saw and she said "yes." I said tell me about the tail, that is the first question I always ask because mountain lions have this huge bottle-brush tails. And she goes, "oh, it didn't have a tail." I said, OK that was a thirty pound bobcat, that is what you saw. She said, "oh yeah, you're probably right. So, don't go crying wolf, if you're not seeing a wolf.
In short, she's saying no to mountain lions in Connecticut but leaving room for the possibility. Why would a person who works with animals speak in absolutes? This is smart, she knows the answer is no but why deal with people trying to convince you of anything? Talking in black and white terms is for idiots like me who've sold their soul for clicks and shares.
Kotkin is not the only expert who says there is no mountain lion population in CT. In August of 2022, NPR spoke to DEEP Biologist Jason Hawley who said "data doesn't support a breeding population of mountain lions in Connecticut." Hawley added:
People often get very emotional about it. Hey, I know what I saw. I’ve seen bobcats before, this wasn’t a bobcat.’ And it’s a lose-lose situation, because there’s really not a whole lot you can tell them in most cases that’s going to change their mind.
When I say internet debate, I mean it. If you Google "mountain lion CT" you'll find thread after thread of people insisting they've seen a mountain lion which is countered by 5 x the amount of people saying these are mistaken identities.
Here's a snapshot of one of the many Reddit debates, over mountain lion sightings. This discussion happened in July of 2022. At the time, local news stations reported a mountain lion sighting in Woodbridge, CT. Wildlife experts would later say, this was likely a bobcat sighting.
Synapse82: "Here we go again, people claiming Connecticut has mountains."
Ordinary_Guitar 5074: "I saw one in Farmington about two years ago. I know what a f---- bobcat looks like. Mountain lions have territories a hundred miles wide or more. It was probably just passing through."
AhbabaOooMaoMao: "Article admits: not a true sighting. The article also includes no photos.This is click bait."
Assaulted_Pepper_ec: "Usually it’s just a bobcat people misidentified but super cool I hope they’re coming back into the area finally."
pittiedaddy: "One got hit by a car a few years back in Milford. We saw the pictures. It was a mountain lion. We have them here. People still deny it."
KRB52: "Officially, (according to WFSB’s piece on it) mountain lions in Connecticut went extinct 100 years ago."
Arguments just like this rage on for days after anyone reports seeing any wildlife in CT. Normally, I usually like to lean into whatever answer is most interesting but I'm going to lean out on this one.
More on Jen "The Zookeeper" Kotkin:
Jen has been immersed in the conservation & science education field for over 30 years. While working as Director of Animal Care for The New Canaan Nature Center in Connecticut, she was responsible for the care of native wildlife and birds of prey, while teaching the public about the roles of these wild neighbors. While with the Bronx Zoo and Los Angeles Zoo, Jen’s main priority was the care of exotic hoofstock, again while teaching the public about the delicate balance of humans & habitats. While working with a wildlife sanctuary in Half Moon Bay, CA, Jen played a major role in the wildlife training and handling of some 50 exotic species. Her major focus was creating curriculum for a variety of programs including at-risk and foster youth programming. These programs encompassed helping fragile children gain a sense of trust and worth while developing a healing relationship with the non releasable wildlife at the sanctuary.
Currently, Jen is the owner and sole proprietor of Jen Kotkin Pet Care, providing pet care as well as mental and physical exercise & stimulation for dogs, cats, horses, birds and more. Jen continues to create a variety of programs catered to the needs of many organizations. Her passion for teaching about the natural world to those around her is important, and hopes to ignite this spark for others, just as it did for her.
You can listen to our entire interview with Kotkin below where we also discussed a pair of bear attacks that have taken place in CT the past few weeks.