If the state wanted to end this once and for all, they just need to do this:
Make it open season on Mt, Lions (year round) sell permits and let the public go out and do its dirty work of finding cats. After the 1st three confirmed kills close the season and start the rest of the bureaucratic work to study them. My guess...you will never get 3 confirmed kills in NY. But at least the state doesn't waste the money.
Part of my point about incidental evidence is that suggestions like this one are indirectly occurring all the time. There are millions of hunters out there in the Northeast each season after the first snowfall, and thousands of trappers/houndsmen, not to mention untold other recreationists (cross-country skiers, snowshoers, snowmobilers). In my lecture, I include pics from two of our directors spending a week in the Front Range of Montana cutting the tracks of four different cats, following thousands of prints (10,000 to 20,000 left each day by a single cougar) straight to fresh kills and plenty of scat. Yet, it's been more than eight years since anyone has found sign in the Northeast (in Maine), with no roadkills. 300,000 wildlife cams are sold each year, but there are only two such random pics from private cams east of the Mississippi River, both in Minnesota. Why do wild cats wander into Minneapolis, Kansas City, and Chicago, but not Montreal, or Lake Placid, or Pittsburgh?
Then there are the sanctioned surveys. Wolf advocates in Maine trained to find both wolf and cougar sign are out there every winter. The DEC and NY State Museum, with researchers from Cornell, SUNY ESF, and U of Missouri completed an ADK carnivore study in '06 using cams and track traps at 54 locations. They collected and analyzed over 350 scats. The Smithsonian is running the second year of a similar study along the AT in MD and Virginia. The ECF has run surveys in PA, WV, KY, and TN. I've done two small ones at High Point SP (while another one was being done at Stokes SF) and at Minnewaska.
Researchers and amateurs who want to can't find any cougar evidence.