No matter what you call them – pumas, panthers, mountain lions or cougars – these mysterious mammals, and suspected sightings of them, get people talking. The DNR wants residents to know the department 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 there have been 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, around 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, visit Michigan.gov/Cougars.