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DEC Response to Mountain Lion Rumors

February 10th, 2010 · 4 Comments · News

Saber Tooth Cat

A fun thread was started yesterday on The ADK ForumMtn Lion hit by car in Standish 2/8/10.

Here’s the NYCDEC‘s response:


Recently, text and e-mail messages with a picture of mountain lion in the back of a pickup truck have been circulating in the area. The message claims that a mountain lion, or cougar, was recently hit by a vehicle in the Black Brook area. The message also claims that New York Environmental Conservation officers, forest rangers, or game wardens, responded to this incident.

DEC reports that the hoax message received by many these past few days regarding cougars is inaccurate and is not valid. This photo and messages first appeared in Western New York in December 2009 claiming that the mountain lion had been killed in Erie County. Since then, the false reports have moved across the State claiming the dead mountain lion was found in various locales and now has arrived in Northern New York.

This false message joins a host of previous hoaxes regarding mountain lions in New York. In an effort to address this hoax and address the public’s concern, DEC points out the following factual inaccuracies associated with this message:

  • Inconsistent Location: Some messages claim that the cougar was hit on Savage Road – there is no such road in Black Brook or in most of the other locations in which it has been reported. Also, no wildlife/vehicle collisions involving a mountain lion have been reported to DEC, in Black Brook or any other locations in New York State.
  • Inaccurate Information: The hoax message claims that game wardens, Environmental Conservation Officers, or forest rangers responded to this incident. This is not true. No DEC officials responded to a cougar/car collision incident this past weekend, because there was not one that occurred.
  • Photograph Lacks Detail: Like so many of the hoax cougar photographs circulated before this one, this particular photo being circulated conveniently lacks defining features indicative of location. For instance, it conveniently covers the truck’s license plate and lacks background landscape that would indicate region. The dog crates shown in the back of the pick-up truck are popularly used to transport hunting dogs. It is much more likely that this photo is a hunter’s photo taken somewhere out west.
  • Circulation: This identical photo has been sent in other areas of the country and state, claiming alternative local locations and explanations of the incident in the text portion of the message. For example, this same photo has been circulated in Pennsylvania.

Rumors as well as internet, email and photo hoaxes regarding mountain lions are actually common.

To see some of the more popular email hoaxes, visit: Eastern Cougar

For an example of a story where a Finger Lakes man was prosecuted for generating a cougar hoax, visit: ‘Cougar’ incident results in charges.

Another common myth often circulated is that DEC releases cougars as an attempt to control wildlife populations. This is simply not true. DEC never has released cougars.

On rare occasions, people illegally purchase and possess mountain lions as pets. While there is always the possibility of escaped or released captive cougar, it is important to know that there is no wild population of cougars in New York. DEC’s wildlife staff will investigate reports of mountain lions if physical evidence is likely or known to exist, or if a captive animal has been reported to have escaped. Most legitimate tracks or photos that have been investigated in the past turn out to be dogs, bear, bobcat or house cat.

If you feel you have legitimate evidence suggesting a valid sighting, please contact DEC at 518-897-1291. If you believe that you have seen a cougar, please check for tracks or other signs that have been left by the animal. If possible, photograph the animal. Photographs of tracks are also useful, please include an object of known size such as a quarter next to the track. Placing a can or bucket over the best tracks may help preserve them until they can be examined by Wildlife staff.

The Eastern Cougar, or Mountain Lion has been extirpated (completely eliminated) in New York since the late 1800s. There are a few kept in captivity under a special permit, and likely illegally as well. In at least two cases in past years, captive cougars did make it to the wild. Neither cougar survived for long.

To date, no hard evidence has been produced that would prove the existence of cougars living and reproducing in the wild in New York. Contrast that with areas with known cougar populations, where signs are relatively easy to find. For instance, there is an estimated cougar population of 200 cougars in the Black Hills of South Dakota. In 2006, South Dakota officials documented 56 cougar carcasses, and 67 carcasses in 2007. No wild cougar carcasses have been documented in New York since 1894.

Additional facts about the Eastern cougar are available at Eastern Cougar Fact Sheet and Eastern Cougar.

And more here, here, and here.

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4 Comments so far ↓

  • lonewolf

    Why would they do that anyway? creating hoax & such…

  • flipzhd

    Well folks …all you cat none believers, the State of Vermont has CONFIRMED the existence of the
    the Catamount kitty in the state of Vermont, confirmed tracks ,feces,hair etc have been confirmed as the cat…so whats keeping the cat from crossing into NY state folks , lets see you explain that one away….

  • Firedog

    First catamounts or what ever you would like to call them roam such a large area for any one to say there are no cats is full of it. Second this is the Government telling us there are no cats, do you really believe every thing they say. Third, a VT cat wont cross into NY because DEC says they dont exist and wouldn’t want to prove them wrong:). I truly believe they are here in very small numbers.

  • Lions tigers

    I also would like to report a hoax. There is another story that is completely untrue and must be denounced. The story is that a mountain lion was killed by an SUV in June and the Environmental Protection Commissioner Daniel Esty says that they tested the DNA. Now Daniel Esty must have seen a raccoon not a mountain. People who think they see mountain lions are often mistaken. It is usually just a rat , beaver or raccoon. The autopsy was not done on a mountain lion. The DEC is mistaken. They did the autopsy on the raccoon. They found that it is very similar to other animals that have fur and may have come originally from South Dakota. Amazingly its DNA is remarkably like raccoons found in South Dekota so this one must have been the only one of its species to make that long hike. It is the longest hike ever documented by a mammal. If you see a DEC official, humor him or her if they think they ever saw a mountain lion. Remind them that it was really a raccoon. The DEC officials tend to be delusional when it comes to sightings of animals. Sometimes their imagination gets away from them0-especially after Disney films.

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