MNN Galleries

The top 11 animal stories of 2011

By: Russell McLendon on Dec. 27, 2011, 7:43 a.m.
Connecticut cougar

Photo: Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection

9 of 13

Cross-country cougar

In March 2011, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service declared the eastern cougar — aka mountain lion or puma — officially extinct. Three months later, a car struck and killed a cougar in Connecticut.

But as it turns out, the FWS wasn't exactly wrong. Based on DNA tests and other evidence, scientists realized it was actually a western cougar — one that had inexplicably wandered 1,500 miles across the country. Its genes matched the DNA of cougars in South Dakota, and photos from motion-sensing wildlife cameras revealed it had passed through Minnesota and Wisconsin in 2009 and 2010. It was Connecticut's first confirmed cougar in 100 years, although no one is sure why it embarked on such a long, lonely journey.