I was watching the news last night here in New Jersey and to my surprise a story came on about a Mountain Lion sighting in Connecticut in the New York City suburbs. Ironically, roughly six years ago when I was working with my friends at the Smoking Gun Research Agency and doubling as Editorial Director for Haunted Times Magazine, I was called into that same area to research some big cat sightings. In talking with the state park agency, me and my teammates were basically told that we were insane, that it was impossible for any type of Mountain Lion to be alive in this area. I guess, that maybe they should have paid attention to our group and the citizens that originally reported the sightings. The following is the article that was originally published in the Premier Issue of Haunted Times Magazine in August 2005.
Big Cat in Connecticut,
Connecticut based paranormal research group search for answers.
By Mark A. Mihalko
Right now researchers from around the world are searching the far ends of the earth for new, previously undiscovered animals. Most people have heard of the expeditions searching for Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, or the Yeti. But, while these researchers are off searching for these famous cryptids, others are having success rediscovering animals that were once thought to be extinct. Recently, wildlife scientists rediscovered North America's largest woodpecker in central Arkansas in April 2005. The discovery of the Ivory-Billed Woodpeckerwas the culmination of an intensive year-long effort focusing in on an area of the Cache River and White River national wildlife refuges. It involved more than 50 experts and field biologists working together as part of the Big Woods Partnership. In the end it was a year well spent, with the group capturing a male ivory-billed woodpecker on video, providing proof to the skeptics that doubted the cryptids existence.
Rediscovery of thought to be extinct animals plays a huge part in the world of Cryptozoology. Sure, in some ways it is less exhilarating then searching for Bigfoot, but in the end it can be more satisfying. Everyone has heard of the mountain lion, or Felis Concolor, it is a large, tawny, long-tailed cat also known as a cougar, puma, or panther. These animals are believed to have been forced to extinction in the Eastern United States and Eastern Canada since the early 1900's. However, increased environmental protection and improved habitat has led to a rise in mountain lion populations in the Western United States, which has caused speculation that the species has migrated to the East.
These large cats can grow to 5 to 7 feet in length, 2 to 3 feet in height, and weight between 70 and 150 pounds. They are solitary, extremely elusive and difficult to track; mountain lions are predators of deer, birds and smaller animals and would not be a friendly visitor on an afternoon hike. Sightings and stories of these large predators have been reported throughout Massachusetts and along the Appalachian Trail which winds through this region.
We started our ongoing investigation after receiving multiple sighting reports documenting the potential existence in the Burlington region of the Blue Trail.
"The first was a dead on sighting and the critter was about 5 feet long, tan, and very smooth looking with a long tail about 25% the length of its body. It was carrying a bloody lump of dead animal in its mouth. Not sure what it was chewing on but it was not looking very healthy. This was definitely not a Bobcat which I have encountered many times in those woods."
The second sighting was a little less distinct, "characterized by a shrill growl and a glimpse of a long body with a long tail running across a ridge and into the tree line."
Even though the vague descriptions provided in these reports have the characteristics of a Mountain Lion, the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) remains skeptical. In fact, the DEP runs multiple programs looking for new animals in the forests. Every year they investigate possible sightings by taking photos, analyzing prints and scat, or animal feces and in each case, they have come up empty. After concluding an initial fact finding mission on the habitat and tendencies of a Mountain Lion, members of the Smoking Gun Research Agency (SGRA) hit the field for a detailed field investigation. Over the next 12 hours the team would make some interesting discoveries.
The group centered their investigation on an area of the Tunxis Blue Trail between Burlington and Bristol Connecticut. The terrain in the area seems ripe for Mountain Lion habitat, having large rocky outcrops surrounded by lush wetlands. During their hike the group noticed quite a few tracks that were the general size and shape of a Mountain Lion (3 inches by 4 inches). Unfortunately, none of the tracks were cast-able. Casting tracks in that area will be extremely difficult due to the amount of leaves on the ground.
In one area roughly 3/4 mile behind the Lampson Corner Cemetery (which in itself is a noted haunted cemetery in Connecticut), the group discovered an interesting set of tracks intermixed with deer and dog tracks. These tracks had the same characteristics as the above mentioned track with a stride measurement of 39 inches. This stride is also on par with a mountain lion.
Right outside of a marsh area in the same area of one of the sightings, the group stumbled across the remnants of a large bird. These remains were on a pathway that ran between the marsh and a hill full of rocky outcrops.
While the group found no definitive proof during their first field investigation, they did uncover enough evidence to warrant a return. The 12 hours the team has invested is a far cry from the year spent to uncover the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker. But, with any luck their search will be just as successful.