Go East, Young Lion!

A three page feature in this month's edition of Outdoor Life magazine details the migration of a growing U.S. mountain lion population East into the Midwest states.

In fact, a young male lion that was reported roaming the streets of downtown Chicago was shot and killed in April 2008 by city police.

Many mountain lion experts believe that within the next decade, mountain lion sightings will become routine in states like Minnesota and Illinois.

Within two decades, many predict they will have found there way to the Eastern shore.

That is of little surprise to many in the Adirondacks. Mountain lion sightings are routinely reported to local newspapers and state wildlife personnel here.

Wildlife biologists with The Cougar Network - a nonprofit, science-based research organization currently tracking the migration of mountain lions - have even identified the Adirondacks as a "class 2 confirmation" area.

To qualify for class 2, confirmations like track sets verified by a professional and other tangible, verified physical evidence, such as prey carcasses or scat must have been found in the past two decades.

That classification, however, runs contrary to information collected by local wildlife experts.

"To my knowledge there has never been any scat or confirmed tracks of mountain lions collected in the state," senior wildlife biologist Ed Reed said.

Reed said a bobcat hunter killed a young mountain lion in Saratoga County about 10 years ago, but said it was determined that animal escaped from captivity.

"The carcass was examined by a DEC wildlife pathologist and it was determined that the animal had been in captivity and was starving," he said.

Nevertheless, experts with The Cougar Network contend that a lack of evidence doesn't necessarily mean the animals don't exist.

Dr. Clay Nielsen, a wildlife ecologist and director of scientific research for The Cougar Network, said the group received reports of hundreds of sightings around the Chicago area prior to the young male showing himself.

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