2 Cougar Sightings Confirmed In Michigan's Upper Peninsula

WWJ News
October 22, 2019 - 9:25 am

photo: Michigan Department of Natural Resources


(WWJ) - Two more rare cougar sightings have been confirmed in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

The Department of Natural Resources says its cougar team recently confirmed two trail camera photos of a cougar in the U.P.

The trail cameras were located approximately 14 miles apart. One photo was taken in northern Delta County on September 18 and the other was taken in southern Marquette County on October 6.

The DNR didn't say whether it believes the same cougar was captured on both cameras or if it was two separate animals.

With these new additions, the DNR has verified 43 cougar reports since 2008, five of which were confirmed this year. All but one sighting occurred in the Upper Peninsula.

State officials say there's no evidence Michigan has a breeding population of cougars, which are an endangered species protected under state law. 

Previous genetic testing on tissue samples from two cougars poached in the U.P. showed the two likely came from a population found generally in South Dakota, Wyoming and northwest Nebraska. The DNR says this research matched a hypothesis held 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.