A wild cougar found dead on a road in Connecticut had trekked halfway across the United States before it was hit by a car, scientists say.
DNA tests on the big cat, killed in June, have revealed that it was native to the sparsely populated Black Hills region of South Dakota, 1,500 miles away, the BBC reports.
The cougar’s DNA matched that of samples of scat, hair and blood collected in 2009 and 2010 in the U.S. states of Minnesota and Wisconsin, which are east of South Dakota.
Scientists say the evidence suggests that the cougar made the longest-ever recorded journey by a land mammal.
The cougar — a big cat native to the western hemisphere that is also known as a mountain lion, or puma — once ranged from Yukon territory in northern Canada to Argentina and Chile in South America, and from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean.
But due to excessive hunting and loss of habitat, its territory in North America is now mostly limited to the western United States and some areas of western Canada.
The young male cougar that was killed by a SUV in June in Milford, Connecticut — just 50 miles northeast of New York City — was the first cougar sighted in that state since the late 1800s.
Before its death, it had been spotted near private schools and motorways, The New York Times reports.
"The journey of this mountain lion is a testament to the wonders of nature and the tenacity and adaptability of this species," Daniel Esty, commissioner of the state's Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, told the BBC.