By Doug Marrin, STN reporter
With the exception of one in Michigan thumb in the early 2000s, wolverines have not been seen in Michigan for 200 years. However, cougar sightings have increased, possibly making Wolverine State more of a Great Lakes cougar state.
So far, in 2021, Michigan has had ten confirmed sightings of cougars. Keep calm. They were all in the Upper Peninsula. The most recent confirmed sighting, September 16, was from a surveillance camera in Dickinson County.
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) reports that since 2008, there have been 74 confirmed cases in Michigan. That number doesn’t mean that 74 predatory big cats roam the wilderness of Michigan’s Wonderland. The same animal can be photographed several times. The MDNR states that âSurveillance cameras and home security cameras make up most of the photos we receive, and the prevalence of these devices is probably the reason why sightings are on the rise. “
Cougars were originally from Michigan, but were exterminated from Michigan in the early 1900s. The increase in cougar sightings is not unique to Michigan, but has occurred in many other states in the Midwest and East, young males dispersing from the main range of the western United States.
Documented DNA evidence shows the big cats in UP Michigan could be passing or dispersing cougars from the closest known breeding populations in North and South Dakota. These populations are found more than 900 miles from Michigan. MDNR has no confirmed evidence of a breeding cougar population in the UP
Adult cougars typically weigh between 90-180 lbs. with a body length of 5-6 feet from nose to base of tail. Cougars prefer to be active at night, although they can go out during the day. They are solitary animals who like to ambush their prey. Their lifespan is 8 to 12 years. The preferred game of cougars is deer, but they are opportunistic predators that occasionally take young moose, livestock and pets. Cougars kill their prey with one bite on the neck, several on the spine.
The chances of encountering a cougar in the wild are tiny, and attacks are extremely rare. The MDNR offers the following tips if you ever encounter a cougar:
- Face the animal and do not act in a submissive manner. Stand up straight, wave your arms, and speak out loud.
- Never run away from a cougar or other large carnivore. If children are present, pick them up so they cannot run.
- In the event of an attack, retaliate with whatever is available. DO NOT play dead.
- Report the meeting to local authorities and the DNR as soon as possible.
Since the cougars have yet to cross the “Mighty Mac” to the Lower Peninsula, Michigan does not appear to be in danger of becoming “Great Lakes Cougar State” anytime soon. But there was this sighting confirmed in 2017 in Clinton County, just north of Lansing.
Photo: “This cougar clearly didn’t jump leg day.” The photo was taken on September 16 in Dickenson County. Courtesy of MDNR.