Wild cougar passed through Adirondacks

The wild cougar that journeyed some 1,800 miles from South Dakota to Connecticut passed through the Adirondacks in 2010, according to the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

The cougar's track in Lake George. Photo courtesy of DEC.
The cougar’s track in Lake George. Photo from DEC.

Cindy Eggleston spotted a cougar in her backyard in the town of Lake George on December 16. The next day, her husband, David Eggleston, who is a retired DEC colonel, and Environmental Conservation Officer Louis Gerrain followed the animal’s tracks and collected hair samples from what appeared to be a bedding site.

DNA analysis of the hairs indicated that they came from the same cougar that was killed by a car on a highway in Milford, Connecticut, on June 11. Previously, DNA tests of the Connecticut cougar showed that it was the same cougar that had been tracked in Minnesota and Wisconsin and that it came from a breeding population in the Black Hills of South Dakota.

The cougar was first detected in Minnesota in December 2009 and then tracked as it wandered through Wisconsin. In May 2010, a cougar was caught on trail cameras near the border of Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Scientists believe it was the same cougar. Presumably, it traveled through the Upper Peninsula into Ontario and then headed south, eventually passing through the Adirondacks.

The cat was a healthy male, weighing about 140 pounds that apparently had been in search of a mate.

DEC biologist Kevin Hynes said young males out west usually travel only one or two hundred miles in search of a mate, though one cougar outfitted with a radio collar trekked 660 miles from South Dakota to Oklahoma. The cougar killed in Connecticut traveled about three times as far.

“Sometimes wildlife do unexpected things,” Hynes said. “This was a remarkable journey. If you had asked me before it happened, I wouldn’t have thought that it was possible.”

DEC says cougars were extirpated from the Adirondacks in the 1800s, though some people contend that a remnant population continues to dwell in the region. Hynes argues that the fact that the animal was observed and tracked–not only in New York but in other states–is evidence against the existence of a remnant population.

“If we had a number of mountain lions living in the Adirondacks or the Catskills, they certainly would be detected over time,” he said.

Hynes added that Eggleston’s may be the first sighting of a wild cougar in New York State since the late 1800s. A cougar kitten was shot and killed in Saratoga County in 1993, but tests indicated that it had been a captive animal of South American origin.

About Phil Brown

Phil Brown edited the Adirondack Explorer from 1999 until his retirement in 2018. He continues to explore the park and to write for the publication and website.

Reader Interactions


  1. Donald Donah says

    i and my hunting buddy (at the time) spotted a black cougar on burnt hill saranac ny in the year of 1986..it was spotted just after dark as we were walking down the side of a stone wall in a field that headed to a spot where the local farm in the area used to dump all its dead cows ans calfs that had died of verious reasons,although it was not quite pitch dark and this cat was black we both saw a quick glimps of it as it jumped the stone wall and ran into the deeper woods,it measured approx 7 ft from nose to tail and was about 150 lbs (just a guess)..have never seen one since and we left that area right away that night,we told our boss david kirk about it (he owns the land we spotted it on) and he said he thought he had heard it some nights before.dont know if was just passing through or what but we know what we saw.

  2. Jim Murray says

    I certainly believe the sightings since my wife and I observed one on the Tupper Lake road a couple of years ago (no tracker showed up then) but having a hard time with the South Dakota to Conn. trip. I think this one stumbled into the right back yard.

  3. mary says

    I saw a large cat or cougar on the trails near the wildcenter, and in back of the LP Quinn Elementary School — I think this was almost 3 years ago. I ran away from it as it was running towards me. It was not a deer. I still walk in this area and I have never seen another animal that looked like this one.


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