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Cougars poached; DNA tests done 


 The cougar shown was poached in Schoolcraft County in 2013. This is one of two male cougars the Michigan Department of Natural Resources sampled tissue from for genetic analysis. Photo courtesy Michigan Department of Natural Resources.


The cougar shown was poached in Schoolcraft County in 2013. This is one of two male cougars the Michigan Department of Natural Resources sampled tissue from for genetic analysis. Photo courtesy Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

Genetic testing on tissue samples from two cougars poached in the Upper Peninsula shows the two animals likely came from a population found generally in South Dakota, Wyoming and northwest Nebraska.

“This genetic research lines up with what we’ve presumed previously, that cougars found in the Upper Peninsula are males dispersing from this population east of the Rocky Mountains,” said Kevin Swanson, a Michigan Department of Natural Resources wildlife management specialist with the agency’s Bear and Wolf Program. “These males dispersed from the main population are looking to establish new territories.”

Since 2008, the DNR has confirmed 35 cougar reports in the Upper Peninsula, but so far there remains no conclusive evidence of a breeding population. No reports have been confirmed from Lower Michigan.

Cougars are an endangered species in Michigan protected by law.

The U.P. cougar confirmations were derived from trail camera video, photographs, tracks, scat or in the case of the two males poached, carcasses.

On Feb. 1, a cougar, or mountain lion, was found dead in Dickinson County, about 4 miles north of Iron Mountain.

Conservation officers investigating the incident said the animal, which a medical examination determined had been in a snare, had been dumped near the intersection of Johnson Road and County Road 607 in Breitung Township.

On April 18, researchers at the National Genomics Center for Wildlife and Fish Conservation in Missoula, Montana received a tissue sample collected Feb. 1 from the dead cougar.

The sample had been sent to the center for genetic evaluation by DNR wildlife biologist Brian Roell in Marquette.

Researchers had previously received another cougar tissue sample from Roell on Aug. 28, 2015, which had been collected Nov. 20, 2013, after the poaching of a cougar in Schoolcraft County.

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

Investigation revealed the animal was shot and wounded with a rifle when it entered a field near the camp. The following day, the cougar was tracked down and killed by a man developed later as a suspect.

Three men from Bay City were arrested and convicted for poaching the cougar. The men served jail time, paid several thousand dollars in fines, costs and restitution, and lost hunting privileges for several years.

The genetic results from analysis of the two cougar samples were reported recently to the DNR by the center.

Researchers analyzed the DNA from the two samples using mitochondrial DNA, which traces mother-line ancestry. A haplotype is a group of genes within an organism inherited together from a single parent.

Kristine Pilgrim, genomic laboratory’s supervisor, said the two cougars had a haplotype “M,” which is the most common North American haplotype.

Researchers investigated the potential population of origin for the two cougars using a database which includes samples from cougar populations in South Dakota, North Dakota, Nebraska, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Texas, Oregon and Florida.

“Preliminary substructure analysis shows that these animals are most closely related to individuals from the region of the Black Hills of Wyoming and South Dakota and northwest Nebraska,” Pilgrim said.

Using the genic information from the tissue samples, matched against results from other cougars in the center’s database, probabilities are calculated for the animal’s origin.

The tissue sample from the cougar from Schoolcraft County showed a probability of 74.1 percent to have come from the Wyoming-South Dakota-Nebraska population, while the Dickinson County cougar’s probability was 99.8 percent.

Researchers caution the probability does not necessarily mean the cougars are directly from that location, because there may be other populations that have not been sampled and included in the database.

“This research adds a couple more pieces to the puzzle, helping us to learn more about the cougars found in the Upper Peninsula,” Swanson said. “We still have not found the presence of any females or cubs, which would indicate a breeding population. This analysis also adds information to the center’s data set.”

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

At one time, cougars lived in every eastern state in a variety of habitats including coastal marshes, mountains and forests. They were native to Michigan, but were trapped and hunted from the state around the turn of the 20th Century.

Thirteen western states allow cougar hunting and the North American cougar is listed there as a game species.

The DNR’s Report All Poaching hotline (1-800-292-7800) offers money to tipsters. Information may be provided anonymously.

To learn more about cougars in Michigan, visit www.michigan.gov/cougars.

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Dead cougar found in Dickinson County


 

Michigan Department of Natural Resources conservation officers are seeking information on a dead cougar found approximately 4 miles north of Iron Mountain, in Dickinson County, in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The male cougar was discovered by conservation officers around 11 a.m. February 1, near the intersection of Johnson Road and County Road 607 in Breitung Township.

Anyone with information regarding the incident is asked to call 1st Lt. Pete Wright at the Marquette Customer Service Center at 906-228-6561, ext. 3028 during normal business hours, or the 24-hour DNR Report All Poaching (RAP) Line at 800-292-7800.

Information may be left anonymously.

Michigan conservation officers are fully commissioned state peace officers who provide natural resources protection, ensure recreational safety and protect citizens by providing general law enforcement duties and lifesaving operations in the communities they serve. Learn more about Michigan conservation officers at www.michigan.gov/conservationofficers.

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Cougar illegally killed in UP


 

Michigan Department of Natural Resources law enforcement officials have confirmed a cougar was illegally killed last week in the Upper Peninsula’s Schoolcraft County.

Acting on a tip that a cougar had been illegally killed at a hunting camp in northeast Schoolcraft County, DNR conservation officers and Special Investigations Unit detectives were able to successfully recover evidence and identify and apprehend two suspects from Bay County.

Upon completion of the DNR’s investigation, the case will be turned over to the Schoolcraft County Prosecuting Attorney with warrant requests for charges. The state penalty for illegally killing a cougar, classified as an endangered species in Michigan, is up to 90 days in jail and fines and restitution of up to $2,500.

Anyone with information about this or any other poaching case is encouraged to call the DNR’s Report All Poaching (RAP) hotline at 800-292-7800, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Information can also be reported online at www.michigan.gov/conservationofficers. Tips and information can be left anonymously; information that leads to an arrest and conviction is eligible for a cash reward funded by the state’s Game and Fish Protection Fund.

A trail camera photo of a cougar near the same area as this incident was recently confirmed by the DNR’s Wildlife Division. Wildlife officials believe the animal killed was most likely the same cougar seen in the recent photo.

Cougars, also known as mountain lions, disappeared from the state in the early 1900s. The last confirmed wild cougar in Michigan prior to 2008 was an animal killed near Newberry in 1906.

Since 2008, the DNR has confirmed photos or tracks of cougars on 23 occasions in 10 Upper Peninsula counties. 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.

The Wildlife Division’s specially trained cougar team welcomes citizen reports of possible cougar evidence or sightings. Cougar photos and other evidence, such as tracks, scat or cached kills, should be reported to a local DNR office or through the DNR’s online reporting form at www.michigan.gov/cougars.

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DNR confirms cougar in Houghton and Keweenaw counties


The Department of Natural Resources recently confirmed the presence of a radio-collared cougar just north of the city of Hancock in northern Houghton County. The animal was captured on a trail camera on Nov. 13, walking directly in front of the camera, with the noticeable presence of a radio collar.
DNR Wildlife Division staff visited the property on Nov. 17 where the trail camera is mounted and verified the location of the camera. Property owner Jesse Chynoweth submitted the pictures to the DNR for confirmation.
“This is the third time this animal has been captured on trail cameras in the Upper Peninsula,” said Adam Bump, a wildlife biologist with the DNR’s Cougar Team. “The Wisconsin DNR earlier verified two trail camera pictures of this cat as it passed through Wisconsin on its way to the UP.”
The Department has also verified a set of tracks from a cougar in southern Keweenaw County on Nov. 20. The cougar passed about 30 feet from a deer hunter who later returned to the area with a friend to snap pictures of the cougar’s tracks. The animal is almost certainly the same, radio-collared cougar that was photographed about 15 miles south near Hancock a week earlier.
The DNR is still in the process of tracking down where the cougar is from and has been checking frequencies from collars of cats from South Dakota, Utah and Montana. Only western states currently have cougars collared for research projects, so the animal likely traveled a great distance to reach the Upper Peninsula.
The Department will inform the public if more details are discovered about this cougar.
Cougars, also known as mountain lions, were once found throughout North America, including Michigan. Habitat loss and heavy persecution led to cougars being eliminated from Michigan in the early 1900s. The last known wild cougar taken in Michigan was killed near Newberry in 1906. Although sightings have increased and are regularly reported in the Upper Peninsula, verification is often difficult. Cougar tracks and a cougar photo from in the eastern Upper Peninsula were verified in 2009. Additionally, the DNR was able to verify several sets of cougar tracks in Marquette and Delta counties in 2008. The radio collared cougar has been photographed in Houghton and Ontonagon counties in 2011.
Established cougar populations are found as close to Michigan as North and South Dakota, and transient cougars dispersing from these areas have been known to travel hundreds of miles in search of new territory. Characteristic evidence of cougars include tracks, which are about three inches long by three and a half inches wide and typically show no claw marks, or suspicious kill sites, such as deer carcasses that are largely intact and have been buried with sticks and debris.
Reports of cougar tracks and other evidence should be made to a local DNR office or by calling the department’s 24-hour Report All Poaching line at 800-292-7800.
Cougars are classified as an endangered species in Michigan. It is unlawful to kill, harass or otherwise harm a cougar except in the immediate defense of human life. For more information about the recent cougar tracks and photo, call your local DNR office to report it or report it on our website. To learn more about cougars and how to identify their tracks, go www.michigan.gov/cougars.
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is committed to the conservation, protection, management, use and enjoyment of the state’s natural and cultural resources for current and future generations. For more information, go to www.michigan.gov/dnr.

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DNR confirms presence of cougar in Houghton County


The Department of Natural Resources today confirmed the presence of a cougar in northern Houghton County, in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The animal was captured on a trail camera on Sept. 24, walking directly toward the front of the camera and clearly showing it has a radio collar.
DNR Wildlife Division staff visited the property Sept. 26 where the trail cam is mounted and verified the location of the camera. The property owner wishes to remain anonymous.
“This is almost certainly the same cat as was confirmed in Ontonogan County on Sept. 8,” said Adam Bump, a wildlife biologist with the DNR’s Cougar Team. “What is also interesting is that the Wisconsin DNR earlier verified two trail camera pictures of this cat as it passed through Wisconsin on its way to the UP.”
The DNR is still in the process of tracking down where the cougar is from and has been checking frequencies from collars of cats from South Dakota. Only western states currently have cougars collared for research projects, so the animal likely traveled a great distance to reach the Upper Peninsula.
The Department will inform the public as soon as more details are known about this cougar.
Cougars, also known as mountain lions, originally were native to Michigan but were thought to have been extirpated around the turn of the last century. The last known wild cougar taken in Michigan was killed near Newberry in 1906. However, sightings are regularly reported and although verification is often difficult, the DNR has verified sets of cougar tracks and confirmed the location of a cougar photo in the eastern Upper Peninsula in 2009 and several sets of cougar tracks in Marquette and Delta counties in 2008.
Established cougar populations are found as close to Michigan as North and South Dakota, and transient cougars dispersing from these areas have been known to travel hundreds of miles in search of new territory. Characteristic evidence of cougars include tracks, which are about three inches long by three and a half inches wide and typically show no claw marks, or suspicious kill sites, such as deer carcasses that are largely intact and have been buried with sticks and debris.
Reports of cougar tracks and other evidence should be made to a local DNR office or by calling the department’s 24-hour Report All Poaching line at 800-292-7800. If a citizen comes into contact with a cougar, the following behavior is recommended:
– Stop, stand tall, pick up small children and do not run. A cougar’s instinct is to chase.
– Do not approach the animal.
– Try to appear larger than the cougar. Never take your eyes off the animal or turn your back. Do not crouch down or try to hide.
– If the animal displays aggressive behavior, shout, wave your arms and throw rocks. The idea is to convince the cougar that you are not prey, but a potential danger.
– If a cougar attacks, fight back aggressively and try to stay on your feet. Do not play dead. Cougars have been driven away by people who have fought back.

Cougars are classified as an endangered species in Michigan. It is unlawful to kill, harass or otherwise harm a cougar except in the immediate defense of human life. If you see a cougar, call your local DNR office to report it or report it on their website. To learn more about cougars and how to identify their tracks, go to www.michigan.gov/cougars.

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DNR confirms cougar in UP


The Michigan Department of Natural Resources confirmed last week the presence of a cougar in Ontonagon County, on the far western side of the Upper Peninsula. The animal was captured on a trail camera on private property on Sept. 8, walking directly toward the front of the camera and clearly showing it has an ear tag and a radio collar.
DNR Wildlife Division staff visited the property Sept. 12 where the trail cam is mounted and verified the location of the camera.
“We are pleased that the individuals that caught this animal on video reported it promptly to the DNR and allowed us to verify the location of the camera,” said Adam Bump, a wildlife biologist with the DNR’s Cougar Team. “It is a very interesting sighting given the fact that the cougar has been radio-collared and ear-tagged.”
The DNR is in the process of tracking down where the cougar is from, and is contacting other states with known cougar populations. Only western states currently have cougars collared for research projects, so it is possible that the animal traveled a great distance to reach the Upper Peninsula.
The Department will inform the public as soon as more details are known about this cougar.
Cougars, also known as mountain lions, originally were native to Michigan but were thought to have been extirpated around the turn of the last century.The last known wild cougar taken in Michigan was killed near Newberry in 1906. However, sightings are regularly reported and although verification is often difficult, the DNR has verified two sets of cougar tracks and confirmed the location of a cougar photo in the eastern Upper Peninsula in 2009 and several sets of cougar tracks in Marquette and Delta counties in 2008.
Established cougar populations are found as close to Michigan as North and South Dakota, and transient cougars dispersing from these areas have been known to travel hundreds of miles in search of new territory. Characteristic evidence of cougars include tracks, which are about three inches long by three and a half inches wide and typically show no claw marks, or suspicious kill sites, such as deer carcasses that are largely intact and have been buried with sticks and debris.
Reports of cougar tracks and other evidence should be made to a local DNR office or by calling the department’s 24-hour Report All Poaching line at 800-292-7800. If a citizen comes into contact with a cougar, the following behavior is recommended:
– Stop, stand tall, pick up small children and do not run. A cougar’s instinct is to chase.
– Do not approach the animal.
– Try to appear larger than the cougar. Never take your eyes off the animal or turn your back. Do not crouch down or try to hide.
– If the animal displays aggressive behavior, shout, wave your arms and throw rocks. The idea is to convince the cougar that you are not prey, but a potential danger.
– If a cougar attacks, fight back aggressively and try to stay on your feet. Do not play dead. Cougars have been driven away by people who have fought back.
Cougars are classified as an endangered species in Michigan. It is unlawful to kill, harass or otherwise harm a cougar except in the immediate defense of human life. To learn more about cougars and how to identify their tracks, go www.michigan.gov/cougars.

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