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Mt. Lions In Michigan?

Posted by: Loren Coleman on January 30th, 2009

The long-running campaign to force the Department of Natural Resources to recognize the wild cougar population in Michigan arrived at the state Legislature Thursday [January 29, 2009] morning, as a Senate committee took testimony from a dozen eyewitnesses and experts who claimed evidence of the animals’ presence is indisputable.

Mountain lion, puma, or cougar tracks in Michigan. (Photo credit: Mike Zuidema)

Cougars have been seen by hundreds of people in Michigan over the last 25 years, filmed and photographed, their tracks and droppings confirmed by scientists and attacks on livestock documented, the witnesses said.

Michigan has “a bonafide resident … self-sustaining cougar population,” said Pat Rusz, research biologist with the Michigan Wildlife Conservancy.

But the DNR refuses to acknowledge their presence, and discredits and ridicules assertions to the contrary, he said.

DNR officials did not testify at the hearing of the Senate Agriculture Committee. In the past, department officials have issued mixed signals about Michigan cougars. At times acknowledging the veracity of sightings and evidence, at others dismissing them.

DNR spokeswoman Mary Detloff said after the hearing most of the reports forwarded to the department about cougar cannot be verified. Others have been debunked and some are outright falsehoods, she said.

The department believes the verified sightings have been of so-called “transient” cougars originating from an established population in the Dakotas, Detloff said, not a Michigan-based breeding population.

The Wildlife Conservancy is seeking to have the DNR recognize that small but viable breeding populations of cougar have been established in the Upper and Lower peninsulas. And to have the agency implement a management plan to ensure their survival.

Committee Chairman Gerald Van Woerkom, R-Muskegon, said the DNR’s refusal to act may poses a threat to people and livestock. But he said he is not sure what, if anything, the Legislature can do about it.

“We can’t pass a law that says, ‘Yes there are cougar in Michigan,'” he said. “I just don’t understand the denial.”

Source: “Yes, there are cougars in Michigan, witnesses tell panel: DNR is pressed to recognize presence, offer protection,” by Dawson Bell, Free Press, Detroit, Michigan, January 29, 2009.

Thanks to John Lutz for passing this along.

About Loren Coleman
Loren Coleman is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists, some say “the” leading. Certainly, he is acknowledged as the current living American researcher and writer who has most popularized cryptozoology in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Starting his fieldwork and investigations in 1960, after traveling and trekking extensively in pursuit of cryptozoological mysteries, Coleman began writing to share his experiences in 1969. An honorary member of Ivan T. Sanderson’s Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained in the 1970s, Coleman has been bestowed with similar honorary memberships of the North Idaho College Cryptozoology Club in 1983, and in subsequent years, that of the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club, CryptoSafari International, and other international organizations. He was also a Life Member and Benefactor of the International Society of Cryptozoology (now-defunct). Loren Coleman’s daily blog, as a member of the Cryptomundo Team, served as an ongoing avenue of communication for the ever-growing body of cryptozoo news from 2005 through 2013.


13 Responses to “Mt. Lions In Michigan?”

  1. Endroren responds:

    As a resident of Michigan I thank you for posting this! I believe they first confirmed the presence a few years back when a man claimed to have hit one up near Sleeping Bear Dunes. At the time the DNR collected hair from the car and confirmed that it was in fact a cougar. The comments about a sustainable population are very interesting though.

    The thing that I constantly wonder about, however, is where did this population come from? The straits of mackinaw are quite wide and pretty fierce for swimming – and even in winter, crossing the ice is questionable at best. Did they come up through the highly populated southern parts of the state? Or have they always been here?

  2. Daryl Colyer responds:

    “The Wildlife Conservancy is seeking to have the DNR recognize that small but viable breeding populations of cougar have been established in the Upper and Lower peninsulas. And to have the agency implement a management plan to ensure their survival.”

    In my opinion, the last sentence in the above paragraph from the article is key to DNR’s denial. The case seems to be a great example of another group of government bureaucrats who simply don’t want to take on the task of having to manage another species.

  3. sschaper responds:

    Um, I saw identical tracks in the very light snow on the ground last night (already sublimated), on my suburban driveway in SE Minnesota. I assumed it was a dog or coyote (we do have those in the surrounding country-side.

    I guess I should have taken a picture after all, but I cannot imagine that a cougar would come into town, even if a grown kit from the denning mother a couple hours west of us had wandered this way.

  4. maslo63 responds:

    Were there claw marks present in the tracks? Since cats have retractable claws they won’t show up in a footprint. With dogs however the claw marks will be present.

  5. Insanity responds:

    As a resident of western Michigan, I have had hunter friends tell me that they have seen tracks and signs themselves, including deer carcasses up in trees. There are very few critters that can or will drag a deer carcass into a tree. On one occasion my wife and I believe we may have seen a small cougar dead along the highway.

  6. aastra responds:

    “I guess I should have taken a picture after all, but I cannot imagine that a cougar would come into town…”

    People should be aware that cougars can and do venture into urban areas. They’ve even been captured in the downtown cores of large cities.

    Recent examples of cougars-in-the-city:

    – Chicago
    – Saskatoon, SK
    – Los Angeles (Altadena, Orange County)
    – Olympia, WA
    – Omaha, NE
    – Denver
    – Kansas City
    – Victoria, BC

  7. mystery_man responds:

    Maslo63- It’s not necessarily true that claw marks will always be absent in cat tracks. Let’s forget for a moment that a general statement that all cats have retractable claws is not true, and that there are some species of wild cat that actually have claws which do not fully retract, and focus just on mountain lions. If the ground is soft, such as sand or snow, claw marks can be present in the tracks regardless of their ability to retract their claws. Also, if the cat was running when it made the tracks, especially in conjunction with soft ground, there can be claw marks left behind in the tracks. So in fact claws can show up sometimes in cat prints.

  8. cryptidsrus responds:

    This is exciting news, indeed…
    Thanks for the heads up, Loren…:)
    Wonder what DNR will do now?

  9. DreamKeeper responds:

    I live right next to the Sleeping Bear Dunes in Michigan. They have “Beware of cougars” signs. Now if the DNR says there aren’t any cougars in Michigan, why are there warning signs? I constantly hear stories about people seeing cougars in Northern Michigan. Now if there isn’t a cougar problem, we must all be crazy.

  10. oldpine responds:

    I have never figured out way state game officials are so dead set aginst admitting that mountain lions can exist within their state, but this seems to be the norm through out much of the country.

  11. traveler responds:

    Finally! I was one of those people that had reported a sighting, and was told I was mistaken. It was in Upper Michigan (same area as a bf sighting, btw). My father and I were out looking for a new trout stream, and we had just hiked back to the car and got in to share a soda when he pointed out the window. There, not 10 yards away, a Mountain Lion was walking parallel to the car, then crossed over in front of us It was a young male in its prime.

    Very majestic. A few years later in the same general area, my mother was driving on the road at dusk and about 20-25 yrds in front of her she saw an animal cross. She wasn’t sure what it was, but as she described it, she mentioned the long thick tail. We believe that it was the same one, and that he was a permanent resident. If you asked any of the old timers, they all knew that they were around.

  12. golfishunts responds:

    my friend sent me some pictures last week of three cougars eating a deer that were taken with a motion sensing trail cam just south of Munising in the UP. These animals all appear to be full grown and in the 80-90 pound range. I have hunted in the UP for years and about 5 years ago we found 2 deer carcasses in the campsite we use north of Manistique (about 12 miles from where these cougar pictures were taken). These carcasses did not have the usual gnawing marks that should have been left on the bones had these been felled by wolves or cayotes. We believe that they were probably cougar kills.

  13. is2simple responds:

    april 4,2009 11:25 a.m. i saw 2 large tan cats across the swamp (about 40 yards) the cats were just a tan color and the tails were about the same length as the torso. i live in southern washtenaw county near the irish hills area. the first winter i lived here in 2001 i saw another large cat the same size but it was completely black, i was less than 50 feet away. these are not house cats, i have never seen a house cat the size of a fox!



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