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Michigan DNR confirms new cougar sighting in Upper Peninsula

Posted: 1:54 PM, Aug 12, 2019
Updated: 2019-08-13 06:15:16-04
Michigan cougar spotted

For the 39th time since 2008, a cougar has been sighted in Michigan.

A landowner’s trail camera picked up the mountain lion in Gogebic County, in the far western portion of the Upper Peninsula on July 7.

The Department of Natural Resources' cougar team confirmed the animal captured on camera was indeed a cougar after verifying images and visiting the site.

"This is very close to where a cougar was documented on a Deer Movement Study trail camera last year,” said Cody Norton, a large carnivore specialist with the Bear and Wolf Program of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

Cougars are endangered species in Michigan.

Since 2008, the DNR has now confirmed 39 cougar reports with all but one of those occurring in the Upper Peninsula. In some cases, these reports may include multiple sightings of the same cougar, not necessarily 39 individual animals.

Michigan cougar confirmations have been derived from trail camera video, photographs, tracks, scat or in the case of two male cats, poached carcasses.

Previous genetic testing on tissue samples from those two cougars poached in the U.P. showed the two animals likely came from a population found generally in South Dakota, Wyoming and northwest Nebraska.

This research matched a hypothesis held by DNR wildlife biologists that mountain lions documented in this region were males looking to establish territories, dispersing from a population west of Michigan, east of the Rocky Mountains.

Researchers investigated the potential population of origin for the two cougars using a database which included samples from cougar populations in South Dakota, North Dakota, Nebraska, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Texas, Oregon and Florida.

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, cougars were once the most widely distributed land animal in the Western Hemisphere but have been eliminated from about two-thirds of their historic range.

At one time, cougars lived in every eastern state in a variety of habitats including coastal marshes, mountains and forests. They were native to Michigan but were trapped and hunted from the state around the turn of the 20th century.