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Michigan DNR: Six confirmed cougar sightings in the Upper Peninsula this year

On April 24, 2020, a trail camera photo was captured of a cougar in Delta County, on the Stonington Peninsula. This is about 45 miles from where Michigan Department of Natural Resources staff found tracks on Feb. 20 in Schoolcraft County. This year, the DNR has six confirmed reports of cougars in Michigan, all in the Upper Peninsula: one each in Chippewa, Ontonagon and Schoolcraft counties and three in Delta County. (Michigan Department of Natural Resources photo)

LANSING – No matter what you call them — pumas, panthers, mountain lions or cougars — these mysterious mammals, and suspected sightings of them, get people talking.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources wants residents to know the agency is listening and keeping a careful eye on where cougars reportedly are turning up.

This year, the DNR has six confirmed reports of cougars in Michigan, all in the Upper Peninsula: one each in Chippewa, Ontonagon and Schoolcraft counties and three in Delta County.

In February, DNR Wildlife Division staff confirmed two of those reports after finding cougar tracks while conducting the U.P. winter wolf track survey. Four additional sightings were confirmed after residents submitted trail camera photos of cougars.

The confirmed reports are rare. Since 2008, the state has had 55 confirmed reports of cougars in Michigan and all but one have been in the Upper Peninsula. It’s also important to note that the reports could be multiple sightings of the same animal.

Though originally native to Michigan, cougars were driven from the state’s landscape due to several factors, including habitat loss, about the early 1900s. Despite the occasional reported sightings, wildlife experts say there’s no evidence of a breeding population in the state.

“DNA analysis of two cougars poached in the U.P., for example, showed the animals likely dispersed from their established populations in South Dakota, Wyoming and Nebraska,” said Cody Norton, large carnivore specialist with the DNR.

In Michigan, cougars are an endangered species and protected by law. To learn more about the recent confirmed sightings or to submit a cougar report, go to Michigan.gov/Cougars.

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