DNR confirms 31 sightings of cougars in Michigan, display in Upper Peninsula

The new mountain lion display at Tahquamenon Falls State Park provides visitors with information on cougars in the Upper Peninsula. Courtesy: Michigan Department of Natural Resources

LUCE COUNTY-- Two cougar mounts are on display in the Upper Peninsula to help the public learn more about these uncommon visitors.

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

The DNR says at one time, cougars lived in every eastern state in a variety of habitats, including coastal marshes, mountains and forests.

Cougars were native to Michigan at one point, but they were extirpated from the state around the beginning of the 20th century.

Since 2008, the DNR has confirmed 31 cougar reports in the Upper Peninsula, but so far there remains no evidence confirmed of a breeding population.

One of the two cougars on display at the "Fact Shack" at Tahquamenon Falls State Park was donated by the GarLyn Zoo. The cougar died of natural causes.

The second cougar can be seen at the DNR's Newberry customer service center, located off M-123 south of Newberry. This cougar was received by the DNR at the close of a poaching case in Schoolcraft County.

During the 2013 muzzle-loader deer hunting season in the Upper Peninsula, conservation officers received a tip that a cougar had been killed at a hunting camp near Seney.

"The investigation revealed the animal was shot and wounded with a rifle when it entered a field near the camp," said DNR Sgt. Mike Hammill. "The following day, the cougar was tracked down and killed by one of the suspects."

Hammill said that as a part of the sentence, the shooter was required to pay the cost of having the animal mounted.

All of Michigan's verified cougar reports have come from the Upper Peninsula, where 12 of the region's 15 counties have had reports.

Marquette County has led the confirmed cougar reports with six; Menominee County has had four; Houghton, Delta and Mackinac counties have had three each, while Baraga, Chippewa, Luce, Schoolcraft and Ontonagon counties have each had two and Keweenaw and Dickinson have had one each.

"Within the last decade, numerous cougar sighting reports have been received from various locations in Michigan and are investigated by DNR Wildlife Division's cougar team," said Kevin Swanson, a DNR wildlife biologist in Marquette.

The most recent confirmed mountain lion report occurred in September with DNR verification of a trail-camera image in Dickinson County.

"This situation is not unique to Michigan, but has been occurring in many other Midwestern and eastern states as young males disperse from core range areas in the western United States," Swanson said.

The DNR says out of the 31 confirmed sightings, 21 included photos, eight were tracks, one was video and scat and the remaining confirmed report was that of the cougar poached near Seney in Schoolcraft County in 2013.

To learn more about cougars, CLICK HERE.

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