Cougars were wiped out in Michigan more than 100 years ago, but a few of the big cats have been returning.
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources recently confirmed two new cougar sightings in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.
MDNR officials say the two photographs were taken this fall – one was taken on a camera phone 30 miles south-southeast of Sault Ste. Marie in late October – another was taken with a trail camera on public land near Mackinac County’s Garfield Township.
Officials say there have been 26 verified cougar appearances in eastern upper Michigan since 2008, but they caution that this does not mean there is a breeding population in Michigan.
More from the MDNR:
With the verification of these two photos, the DNR has now confirmed the presence of cougars in 11 Upper Peninsula counties 26 times since 2008. The animals are believed to be young individuals dispersing from established populations in the Dakotas in search of new territory; there is no evidence of a breeding population of cougars in the state.
In 2012, Adam Bump of the MDNR told us that the cougars in Michigan are often males:
"Most of the dispersing individuals that will travel that far of a distance are young males and they are looking for habitat and food but they are also looking for breeding opportunities," he said. "I think once they get out here, they keep moving, because they are not finding everything that they are looking for."
Cougars have breeding populations out west. The Cougar Network has a map that shows breeding populations as far east as North Dakota, South Dakota, and Nebraska. There are also populations in Florida.
Cougars are a protected species in Michigan. If you harm one, you could face charges. Several hunters faced jail time, probation, and fines after illegally killing one of the cats last year.
If you think you have evidence of one of the big cats, you can report it on the MDNR’s website.