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The North Country was abuzz with rumors yesterday that a motorist in the Clinton County town of Black Brook had struck and killed a large mountain lion.
A photograph of the animal circulated on the internet.
But David Winchell, a spokesman for the Department of Environmental Conservation , says the latest cougar sighting is a hoax. "We've received a number of phone calls on reports of a mountain lion killed in Black Brook," Winchell said. "But these reports are completely false. This hoax started in Region 9, in Buffalo, last December and has moved across the state and has finally arrived here."
Winchell says each version of the hoax shows the same set of inconsistencies: "If you look at the message, one of the things that's really interesting, no matter what locale they claim the accident occurred in, they say it was on Savage Road," he said. "And most of these locales don't even have a Savage Road there."
Rumors of this latest sighting have circulated for weeks as far away as Ohio, Pennsylvania and western New York.
Late last year, Buffalo's News Channel 4 spoke with Captain David Bennett, a forest ranger with the Department of Environmental Conservation. He said, "It's always a friend of a friend saw it or a cousin of mine got this from a buddy of his and so on. But there was no lion. There's no proof at all, other than those in captivity."
Despite the DEC's insistence that there's no proof of mountain lions in New York, residents insist they've seen the animals.
Regional Wildlife Manager Mark Kandel says there's no conspiracy on the DEC's part. He said, "Everybody would know if we did. We can't keep that a secret. A lot of people think we can keep it a secret, but that would be impossible."
Biologists say the eastern cougar disappeared from New York in the late 1800s.