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Scientists: Cougar Traversed Continent Over 2 Years On Way To Fairfield County

GREENWICH, Conn. (CBSNewYork) -- A mountain lion killed in Connecticut last month is now confirmed to have crossed half a continent before arriving in upscale Fairfield County.

CBS 2's Lou Young traced the remarkable movements of the Connecticut cougar.

A motion activated camera showed a young mountain lion, or, more specifically, a cougar, moving fast along the snowy banks of Minnesota's St. Croix River on Dec. 1, 2009. We now know it was the same animal caught in a blurry backyard photo in Greenwich last month only to die days later under the wheels of an SUV on the Merritt Parkway.

Scientists are stunned.

"It was a two-year journey. It was an epic journey, you know?" Greenwich wildlife officer Joe Cassone said.

It was a journey that began in South Dakota, passed through Minnesota and Wisconsin, and then likely through Canada and down into the Hudson Valley. Experts said the young male Connecticut cougar was very likely looking for love.

"Unless territory opens up where there are females they are not going to occupy that territory so they will keep going," said Chris Spitz of the Cougar Re-Wilding Institute.

DNA evidence collected from the big cat's droppings in the wild sealed the deal: the animal traveled a tremendous distance and it appears the young male likely encountered no females during the entire trip. That seems to add a note of poignancy to the story.

"That's sad, yes it's sad," one woman in Greenwich told Young.

"It's tragic, it is. It's really sad," a man added.

The good news, though, is that Fairfield County residents no longer have to worry about encountering a large feline predator in the woods.

"It really puts it to bed that there was only one and there's not a wave of mountain lions coming our way," Cassone said.

State environmental officials are still deciding whether or not they'll have the visitor's remains stuffed as a tribute to its long trek. The big cat was 140 pounds when it died. Scientists said it was less than 5 years old, which is why they believe he was searching for a mate.

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