The Department of Natural Resources has confirmed three recent cougar sightings in the Upper Peninsula.
Two photos of a cougar with a radio collar were taken in October in Menominee County, while a third photo was taken of a collarless cougar in November in Marquette County.
The DNR does not employ radio collars to track cougars, making the origin of the cat something of a mystery.
North Dakota and South Dakota are the nearest states that make use of collars to track cougars, and the animals are known to travel hundreds of miles in search of new territory.
Once native to Michigan, cougars, commonly referred to as mountain lions, disappeared from the state in the early 1900s.
Prior to 2008, the last confirmed cougar sighting in the state was in 1906. But the DNR has since confirmed 20 sightings of the animals in the Upper Peninsula.
From the DNR:
“The increasing number and frequency of verified cougar sightings in recent years are likely due to three factors in particular: The growing popularity of trail cameras used to monitor wildlife activity in the woods 24 hours a day; additional transient cougars moving east from established populations in western states as they seek new territory; and the cooperation of the public in reporting cougar sightings and sharing their photos with us for official review, which we greatly appreciate,” said Adam Bump, one of four DNR biologists specially trained to investigate cougar reports.
Bump, a member of what he calls the DNR’s “cougar team,” says that cougars are likely traveling from the Dakotas, but not breeding in Michigan.
Most of the transient cats tend to be young males in search of breeding opportunities. Not finding them, they move on, Bump said.
You can report cougar tracks and other evidence at a local DNR office or on the DNR's online reporting form at www.michigan.gov/cougars.
- Jordan Wyant, Michigan Radio Newsroom