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.