Last spring I had the opportunity to work with Dr. John Baker in taking a directed study course focusing on local conservation issues. After a few weeks of reading up on New England fauna in the region I became very interested in studying the potential re-introduction of mountain lions (Puma concolor couguar or "cougars" as they commonly call them in the Eastern U.S.) to Massachusetts. Recent confirmed sightings of mountain lions in the state of Massachusetts have indicated a return of the species once thought to be extinct in the region (although not officially confirmed by state agencies). The species was once abundant in the state and in New England which was once part of its home range.
Mountain lions, also known as cougars, panthers, wildcats, catamounts, and pumas, were believed to be extinct in New England by 1906 and in the eastern U.S. by the 1930’s. This was a direct result of overhunting, habitat loss, and a drastic decline in the white-tailed deer population. Over the last century however, a decline in forestry in the eastern U.S., the abandonment of agricultural lands in the region, and the restocking of the white-tailed deer population have created better suitable habitat for the species. It is not entirely clear if mountain lions sighted in the state have a territorial home range in the region or if they are only western U.S. or Canadian mountain lions that have strayed from their home range. A mountain lion killed in a motor vehicle accident in Connecticut was traced to have originated from as far away as South Dakota (the story can be found here).