Game Camera Captures Cougar Strolling Through the Woods

A Michigan DNR game camera, set up as part of an ongoing deer movement study, captured this photo of a cougar in Gogebic County.

Game Camera Captures Cougar Strolling Through the Woods

It's quite a surprise when a game camera captures a cougar just strolling along, which is exactly what happened in Michigan.

As part of an ongoing deer movement study, the Michigan DNR posted game cameras in Gogebic County. That's the westernmost county of the Upper Peninsula on Lake Superior near Ironwood. The photo of the cougar was captured Oct. 1 and is the 38th confirmed report of cougar in Michigan since 2008.

Confirmed sightings of mountain lions in Michigan since 2008. (Graphic: Michigan DNR)

State officials believe some of these sighting reports may be the same animal and "There is currently no conclusive evidence of a breeding population in the state." Cougars are an endangered species in Michigan protected by law.

“This latest confirmed report illustrates just how rare cougars are in the Upper Peninsula,” Brian Roell, a DNR wildlife biologist in Marquette, said in a press release. “This is the first time we’ve ever caught a cougar on more than three million game camera images we’ve collected in our studies since 2009.”

DNR researchers use game cameras in their Quantifying Upper Peninsula Deer Movements and Abundance, predator-prey and bear studies. The deer movement study alone uses 50 game cameras in the western U.P., including the one in Ironwood Township that caught the images of the cougar at 7:15 p.m. on Oct. 1.

Biologists noted there was no tracking collar on the cougar. No identification of whether the animal was a male or female was possible. Previous genetic testing on tissue samples from those two cougars poached in the U.P. showed 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 DNR wildlife management specialist with the department’s Bear and Wolf Program. “These males dispersed from the main population are looking to establish new territories.”

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.

Featured image: Michigan DNR


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