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Was the mountain lion’s death a result of the exotic pet trade?

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Early Saturday morning a mountain lion was struck and killed on the Wilbur Cross Parkway. The driver of the vehicle was unharmed.

DEP officials believe the puma was the same animal reported in Greenwich. However, reader comments on the New Haven Register website seem to be more skeptical. People find it hard to believe that the lion could travel such a long distance from Greenwich to Milford. But officials say it is not unheard of and they strongly believe this puma was in fact someone’s lost or abandoned pet.

A network of “unscrupulous dealers” whose wild animal trade has “quadrupled” with the growth of the Internet means the state is home to a range of non-native species, animal advocates said Sunday.

The exotic pet industry is just as strong as ever. A quick Google search will yield a wealth of resources in which anyone can purchase alligators, lemurs, tiger cubs and mountain lions. The options of exotics are endless and since each state has their own rules and regulations, it really isn’t that hard to slip around the red tape.

There needs to be outright bans (across the country),” said Laura Simon, field director of the urban wildlife program for the Humane Society of the United States. “This checkerboard approach, of different laws state to state, doesn’t work.

Of course it is possible a small population of mountain lions exist here in Connecticut. Loss of habitat and the need to adapt to a more opportunistic life style not that different from the eastern coyote may make the state a good heaven for the mountain lion at least in the short term.

However, I would advise people not to panic and avoid thinking that we are becoming over run with the lord of the mountains. Instead, we should all remain alert and educated about our wildlife neighbors and take steps to minimize any encounters. Such things as not leaving our beloved pets outside unattended and keeping trash containers secure can go a long way. And lastly, should you know of anyone keeping an exotic animal as a pet, you should call the Department of Environmental Protection. Not only will such an action serve public safety but will be in the best interest of the animal.

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