WATERBURY, Conn. (AP) -- Armed with camcorders and Velcro, a group of activists hope to prove that mountain lions call Connecticut home despite assurances by the state that the big cats are out-of-towners.
The group, Cougars of the Valley, is raising money to buy equipment to prove their case. It wants to place high-definition camcorders in wooded areas and put Velcro on trees for the cats to rub against and perhaps leave behind fur and droppings for DNA testing.
"The people of Connecticut need to band together and we are going to prove without a shadow of a doubt that mountain lions are here," said Bo Ottmann, founder and director of Cougars of the Valley. "We just need time, that’s all."
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says the eastern mountain lion has been extinct for decades.
Residents have reported seeing mountain lions -- also known as cougars, pumas and panthers -- when they have spotted other animals such as bobcats or coyotes, according to the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.
A mountain lion was seen in Greenwich and killed on the Wilbur Cross Parkway in Milford last year, inflaming a controversy over whether the animals are roaming Connecticut. State environmental officials said DNA tests showed it was from South Dakota.
"There definitely was an increase in reports following news of the Greenwich-Milford mountain lion," said Dennis Schain, spokesman of the state Department of Energy and Environmental Policy.
Ottman said that based on the number of reported sightings, as many as 50 mountain lions could be prowling Connecticut. He does not accept the position by state environmental officials that the cougar killed last year was from South Dakota.
"If anybody thinks otherwise, that this thing travels 1,800 miles without setting up their own territory, they’re crazy," he said.
Despite the state position that mountain lions are not native to Connecticut, Schain said the work by Cougars of the Valley is worthwhile.
"We would welcome this project," he said. "It would provide additional information and evidence one way or the other."