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Michigan DNR To Take Cougar Sightings Seriously

Posted by: Craig Woolheater on October 8th, 2006

DNR: We’ll take cougar sightings seriously
Saturday, October 07, 2006
By Nate Reens
The Grand Rapids PressGRAND HAVEN — State wildlife authorities said Friday they plan to take more interest in reports of cougar sightings and that next spring three staffers will learn about the animals from experts in New Mexico.

The moves, made under pressure from groups such as the Michigan Wildlife Conservancy, signals a modest change from the Department of Natural Resources longtime stance that the big cats do not exist beyond transient creatures and released pets.

The agency has yet to confirm cougars are established and breeding in the state, a line that Grand Haven woman Rita Pieper says will likely never be crossed.

Pieper, with her husband, Glenn, spotted a 6-foot cougar at Grand Haven Township’s Hofma Preserve last September. She is less than encouraged by the newfound attention.

“For years, they’ve refused to admit they exist and, now, suddenly they’re going to take it seriously. I don’t think that’s the case,” Pieper said. “They’ve had all sorts of time in the past and done nothing. The cats are here, and sooner or later there will be no doubt in anyone’s mind.”

State wildlife division chief Doug Reeves said his department is crafting guidelines for workers who receive reports of cougar sightings or attacks on pets or livestock. It also will add a cougar page to its Web site.

“We’re taking it more seriously than we have in the past,” Reeves said. “I’m not going to say there is or isn’t. We acknowledge that there is scientific evidence of (cougars) that’s been found here in Michigan. We do not have evidence ourselves of reproduction.”

Reeves said agency workers have investigated claims of cougar sightings but they’ve come up empty.

Pieper says that’s because rarely do wildlife workers appear to check out the sighting in a timely fashion. “It’s always three or four days later and they treat you like you’re from Mars,” she said. “In that time, the tracks can get covered, the evidence is gone.”

Dennis Fijalkowski, executive director of the wildlife conservancy, believes there could be up to 100 cougars in the state. The animal was declared extinct in the 1930s, but he doesn’t believe they ever died out.

Beth Dubbink, of East Saugatuck in Allegan County, hasn’t seen any of the predators. As evidence, she points to her animals — two horses with scratch marks and torn shoulder muscle wounds and a golden retriever that snapped a double-stitched collar in apparent panic three months ago.

State biologists told her to keep an eye out for the animals.

Dubbink believes the DNR’s changing attitude is a good sign.

“I know I am very wary of what’s outside now,” she said. “My dog barks in the middle of the night and I’m up with a gun.”Nate Reens

About Craig Woolheater
Co-founder of Cryptomundo in 2005. I have appeared in or contributed to the following TV programs, documentaries and films: OLN's Mysterious Encounters: "Caddo Critter", Southern Fried Bigfoot, Travel Channel's Weird Travels: "Bigfoot", History Channel's MonsterQuest: "Swamp Stalker", The Wild Man of the Navidad Destination America's Monsters and Mysteries in America: Texas Terror - Lake Worth Monster, Animal Planet's Finding Bigfoot: Return to Boggy Creek and Beast of the Bayou.


14 Responses to “Michigan DNR To Take Cougar Sightings Seriously”

  1. Sky King responds:

    “I know I am very wary of what’s outside now,” she said. “My dog barks in the middle of the night and I’m up with a gun.”

    I don’t know if I’d go out alone if cougars might be about – even with a gun. Things are pretty silent – they can be on you before you can turn around. I want somebody watching my back, as I watch theirs.

  2. cor2879 responds:

    Do cougars attack adult humans? I wouldn’t think they would except in extreme circumstances.

  3. joppa responds:

    Loren Coleman and Craig Woolheater were hiking in the Rockies checking out some Bigfoot reports. Suddenly, a ferocious and hungry mountain lion jumped into their path. The two men were certain the big cat was about to spring, when Loren slowly bent down and tightened his bootlaces and got into a sprinters crouch.

    “Loren, ” whispered Craig, “Are you crazy? You can’t outrun that big killer cat!”

    Loren slowly dug his heels into the ground, preparing to dash away.

    “Craig, my boy,” he whispered back, “I don’t have to outrun the cat, I only have to outrun YOU!”

    My favorite catamount joke. Cheers.

  4. Dudlow responds:

    I applaud the tentative, but positive, (lets just say progressive) change in attitude of the Michigan DNR. As has been pointed out many times before, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. Finally someone may be listening.

    Notice also how recently Michigan (known as the ‘Wolverine State’) rediscovered its wolverine population. While these critters were officially deemed extinct in the State for over a century, a number of farmers and outdoorsmen knew and occasionally stated otherwise – and it turned out they were correct. Sounds a lot like the cougar issue to me.

    As evidenced by the numerous fatal and near fatal cougar encounters in recent years, especially in California and British Columbia, we need to keep in mind that the cougar is probably the one indigenous predator that we should never fool around with or take for granted.

    If you’ve ever visited an African Lion Safari-type zoo you will know that virtually all the large feline predators have a similar attitude towards people – we’re just big macs in sneakers. Unless they are young, they seem to have no innate fear of us.

    The outfitters in my neck of the woods recommend hikers wear a good, stout hunting knife at each thigh when in cougar country. The last two fellows who survived cougar attacks in British Columbia were jumped from behind. They successfully (and quite luckily) fought back the attacks with their knives.

  5. cuitlamiztli responds:

    To answer your question, cor2879:

    Puma attacks on humans are very rare–according to Wikipedia, there have only been about 100 in the past 116 years, sixteen of which were fatal.

    So, in most circumstances, they’re more likely to run from you than try to eat you.

  6. thatericn responds:

    Cougars (Mountain Lions to us Southern Californians) have attacked humans in the recent past. Several years ago a female jogger was killed on a trail outside her suburban neighborhood that backed up against state or federal park land.

  7. thatericn responds:

    Hello,

    Here is a link to an article that mentions many encounters, continent-wide.

    Several recent So. Cal. attacks are listed towards the end of the article. Please refer to the details provided there, versus my own foggy recollections.

  8. kittenz responds:

    Pumas can and sometimes do attack adult humans, but attacks on adult humans are extremely rare. Pumas will take many different animals as prey, but their preferred prey is deer. People are just not among the puma’s natural prey.

    Most of the few attacks that have occurred have been in areas where there is a fairly large puma population existing near a very large human population. In almost every recent instance of a puma attack on a human, the cat was a 2-yr-old (when the age age could be determined, that is), and almost all the attackers have been male. Most biologists think that attackers are young adults that have recently dispersed from the mother cat, and are still trying to find hunting territories of their own. They are still learning to hunt for themselves, and may try to take prey, such as humans, that is not within their normally preferred diet. But pumas are not known to become habitual “man-eaters” like some old-world big cats do.

    Here in the East, pumas’ numbers are very low, and there is more than enough territory to go around. Pumas everywhere generally leave humans alone. There are thousands of pumas in the American West, but there have only been a handful of puma attacks. (I know that is scant comfort to the few people who have been attacked).

    People who live in rural areas don’t really have a lot to fear from pumas. Pumas are timid by nature, and most of them will run from even a small dog, if it is barking. People who have livestock need to take reasonable precautions, such as bringing animals in at night, or having big flock guardian dogs to protect their livestock.

    Of course it pays to take reasonable precautions such as not hiking alone in areas where pumas are known to exist, and not allowing children to wander off by themselves in the woods.

    My 92 year old grandmother tells a story of her father chasing a puma (panther) away from her older sister with an ax, when she was a girl. Pumas were an accepted part of the local fauna but people did not live in fear of them. I think it’s a good idea to always carry something – a hatchet, a walking stick; not necessarily a gun – when you’re out in the woods, and to be aware of what is going on around you. Pumas aren’t the only potentially dangerous animals in the woods. In most predatory puma attacks (as opposed to cats attacking when cornered, or when they perceive their cubs are in danger), the person never sees the puma until it is upon him. For that reason it’s a good idea to take a dog with you when you hike in puma territory. Dogs’ senses are much more finely attuned to nature than ours. And pumas generally avoid people with dogs, because they don’t like to be noticed.

    I personally am delighted that pumas are making a comeback in the East. It will give us Americans a chance to practice what we preach about living with wildlife.

  9. mystery_man responds:

    Indeed, humans are not the prey of choice for Pumas. We just do not resemble a typical prey animal for them. Most animals will not attack something if they are not sure what it is unless they are young and inexperienced, or very hungry, or wounded and unable to take down natural prey iems. Contrary to what was stated here before, we are not “big macs with sneakers” to most big cats. We are a large, strange animal that they would rather avoid if at all possible. And from my understanding the best way to fend them off is to make a lot of noise, not go mano a mano with a hunting knife. How many people are going to do that, seriously? Best to make a big ruckus because they are out for easy prey, not something that may hurt them and hinder their ability to catch future prey. Let’s resist the urge to make pumas out to be man eaters here.

  10. robzilla responds:

    I live in northern MI. I’ve had friends and family tell me about seeing them before. They tell the MI DNR about them and the DNR tells them there are no cougars in MI. They also tell us there are no bears in our area either.

    I believe that if they think that they are released pets that doesn’t make them any less dangerous they should tell everyone so they can keep an eye on their kids and small pets.

    I live in a small town but this area is rural, lots of farm land and big tracts of forests. There is a lot of unused land here.
    Just because nobody has seen them for a long time don’t mean that they weren’t here all along. I live in East Tawas MI. Go on terraserver and check out the area.

  11. kittenz responds:

    I think that a pet puma suddenly “released” into the wild (a more appropriate word would be “abandoned”) would be much more likely to attack pets, livestock, and even people – especially children – than a truly wild puma that had been taught to kill deer by its mother. It would not have as much fear of people, and it would associate people with food. Even if it was very tame, as many pet pumas are, it would eventually get hungry, and, not knowing how to go about hunting wild prey, it would be apt to start looking at pets and children as a potential meal.

    I am of two minds when it comes to the keeping of exotic cats, especially LARGE exotic cats, as pets. On the one hand I can understand the attraction. They are beautiful, intelligent animals. It’s so much fun to play with the babies, whether they be lion cubs or bobcat kittens. But pound for pound, cats are stronger and more agile than any other animal. Even a housecat can seriously hurt someone, and they have lived with people for thousands of years. An owner of a pet puma once told me, “If you’re walking this cat on a leash, and she wants to climb a tree, well, you’ll end up in a tree”. So many people do get big cats as pets when they are babies, and then dump them when they get big enough to be a liability.

  12. mystery_man responds:

    I agree. A lot of people go out buying exotic pets like these without knowing what they are getting themselves into. They think it is cool, or whatever, but have no idea the kind of commitment it is. Then when it gets too much to handle and someone abandons it, what you have is a cat that is probably not in very good shape to hunt effectively, that will go hungry and has no fear of humans. Then you really do have a potentially explosive situation.

  13. kittenz responds:

    There was a family here in the next county, Floyd County, KY, that recently made the news because of their fight to keep their pet lion. The lion was 4 years old and they had had him since he was a baby. The neighbors were scared that the lion would get out & hurt someone.

    Some people who keep big cats have excellent facilities for them, understand their needs, and understand that there is always a wild animal moving within that cat skin. Others do not.

    Although the people here seemed to sincerely believe that their lion was well-kept and happy, it was obvious that he was not. He was underweight and looked shabby and unkempt. He obviously loved the people, but a 4 year old male African lion is really just coming into full adulthood. Already the neighbors were complaining about the noisy roaring at night and the catbox-type odors that perfumed the whole neighborhood. And the cat was big – even underweight he weighed at least 300 pounds.

    And his home was an enclosure that looked like about a 10′ X 10′ chain-link dog kennel. The county and the town did pass legislation banning dangerous animals such as lions, and the lion was turned over to a big-cat sanctuary.

    He was one of the lucky ones. Hundreds of big cats are turned away from reputable sanctuaries every year in this country, because most of them are full. Many of these cats have been neglected and abused. Even those that are well cared for can never be safely released into the wild. But there are a lot of people who, either out of a misguided attempt to “release their pet back to nature”, or who just do not care what happens to the cat as long as it is not their problem anymore, who just pick a dark night and go out somewhere wher they won’t be observed, and dump the poor cat.

  14. DreamKeeper responds:

    I’m so glad the DNR has actually finally taken this seriously! I live in Northern Michigan, near Traverse City, and man is it a pain. There are cougar and bear sightings constantly, yet the DNR totally denies the existence of either. (Or at least cougars) A cougar ripped up someone’s horse around here! And there are sighting and footprints everywhere. It is scary to think about cougars living around here though. I’m starting to get afraid to walk around outside now.



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