Published June 10, 2011
Residents of Greenwich, Conn., have reported seeing a mountain lion roaming the woods -- even though the species is extinct in the region, MyFoxNY.com reports.
The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) confirms that the sighting is likely a mountain lion, based on some hazy photos and four-inch-wide paw prints, according to the station.
"Although there is no population of mountain lions in the Northeast, we believe that this animal may very likely be a mountain lion that has been held in captivity and either escaped or was released," said DEP deputy commissioner Susan Frechette.
After an extensive review, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service concluded in March that the eastern mountain lion -- also called the eastern cougar -- is extinct.
"We recognize that many people have seen cougars in the wild within the historical range of the eastern cougar," Martin Miller, an official with the Fish and Wildlife Service, said in a statement in March. "However, we believe those cougars are not the eastern cougar subspecies. We found no information to support the existence of the eastern cougar."
DEP officials say Missouri is the closest natural habitat to mountain lions, although Florida is home to a small population of panthers. Greenwich police said that witnesses have seen the cat at least three times in the last week, most recently on Sunday near Brunswick School's King Street campus, according to the Associated Press.
The school is reportedly adjacent to Westchester County Airport, and King Street straddles the border with New York.
Authorities are urging people to stay away from the cat and contact their local police department to report any sightings.