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Suburbs Riled By Mountain Lion Reports

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Suburbs Riled By Mountain Lion Reports

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Suburbs Riled By Mountain Lion Reports

Suburbs Riled By Mountain Lion Reports

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Over the last few weeks, people in the suburbs of Fairfield County, Conn., have been reporting sightings of a mountain lion roaming the woods. Then a mountain lion was hit by a car on a highway and state officials said the large cat, which has been declared extinct in the East, must have been someone's pet. But now more reports of mountain lion sightings are coming in from the wealthy town of Greenwich, and officials are considering the possibility that there may be a second mountain lion loose in the 'burbs.


From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.


And I'm Robert Siegel.

Greenwich, Connecticut, is one of the nation's toniest towns. Ron Howard, Tommy Hilfiger and both Regis and Kathie Lee have homes there. But rumors of a new neighbor are generating the most buzz these days. A mountain lion that had been spotted in town was killed by a car earlier this month. But as Craig LeMoult of member station WSHU reports, the sightings continue.

CRAIG LEMOULT: Just three months ago, the federal government said there are no more eastern mountain lions living in the wilds. Connecticut officials think the one that was killed last weekend on the highway must have been an escaped pet. But then, starting the next day, more people started calling to report they'd seen a mountain lion in Greenwich.

Joe Cassone, who works for the Conservation Commission in the town, presses the button to open the automatic gates at the foot of a Greenwich driveway. The police got a call from here on Monday. His job usually involves dealing with the town's more genteel wildlife, like the deer who pranced in the woods between mansions.

Mr. JOE CASSONE (Conservation Assistant, Conservation Commission): Hi. I'm Joe.

Mr. TIRSO GREGORIO (Housekeeper): I'm Tirso.

Mr. CASSONE: Good to meet you.

Mr. GREGORIO: Nice to meet you too.

LEMOULT: Tirso Gregorio is a live-in housekeeper here. He says he got up about 5:30 in the morning on Monday to get the paper and take out the garbage. And that's when he noticed something in the woods to the side of the long driveway. At first, he thought it was a dog. But then he noticed it had a long, straight tail.

Mr. CASSONE: How heavy would you say it was? Over a hundred pounds?

Mr. GREGORIO: Yeah. About a hundred pounds plus.

Mr. CASSONE: And did you see the face and...

Mr. GREGORIO: Yeah, when he looked at me, and it's - I saw the face. I said that's a puma.

LEMOULT: He raced back into the house to grab a camera. But when he came back out, it was gone. Sandra Joys is the homeowner who employs Gregorio.

Ms. SANDRA JOYS: Tirso only says what he knows and what he sees. And until now, I was more concerned about Lyme ticks, but perhaps I should broaden my concerns.

LEMOULT: Cassone points out mountain lions do usually come out at dusk and dawn, and Gregorio was up pretty early.

Mr. CASSONE: It does sound, you know, like a fit.

LEMOULT: Without a photo, though, Cassone's still not sure there's another mountain lion on the loose. He says people have mountain lions on the mind, and they may really be seeing bobcats, which can still be found in Connecticut. You might think a 140-pound or so cat that stalks its prey might cause a bit of concern in a town of double strollers and hiking trails. But on the ritzy Greenwich Avenue lined with boutiques and cafes, the mountain lion or maybe lions are actually pretty popular.

Ms. JANE BRUYNEEL: I'm a cat lover. Good for them.

(Soundbite of laughter)

LEMOULT: That's Greenwich resident Jane Bruyneel. Some are a bit worried about kids and pets. Others, like Jane Chapman, seemed more concerned about the mountain lion's safety.

Ms. JANE CHAPMAN: I hope they catch him but not kill him. I would like to see him, you know, put safely behind bars somewhere.

(Soundbite of laughter)

LEMOULT: On her way into Tiffany's, Marie Elizabeth says she's skeptical if there is a second mountain lion.

Ms. MARIE ELIZABETH: You know, when someone will say, oh, I saw a mountain lion, who knows if it's really true?

LEMOULT: And anyway, she says Greenwich really isn't a great habitat for a mountain lion.

Ms. ELIZABETH: Unless he wants to go Saks.

(Soundbite of laughter)

LEMOULT: The Greenwich mountain lion does seem to be into keeping up with the latest trends, like the cobra that disappeared from the Bronx Zoo in the spring. He's got his own Twitter feed now. He's tweeted about drinking chardonnay with Greenwich homeowner Diana Ross and hitting a power breakfast with executives from G.E. Even so, there's still no photos confirming there's a mountain lion hobnobbing with the rich and famous in Greenwich, Connecticut.

For NPR News, I'm Craig LeMoult.

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