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Do Wild Cougars Live In Michigan?

  • Yes

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  • No

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  • Not Sure

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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
There has been a lot of press both ways in recent month, so what do you think; Do wild cougars live in Michigan?

I've seen two cougars in my life, both in Nevada when I lived there. I have also saw plenty of cougar sign during my stint in AZ and NV back in the early 80s. I have never seen a cougar in Michigan, nor have I seen any sign yet. I have heard plenty of eye-whiteness accounts though, from credible people, who have seen them. In fact, I read that there have been 10,000 reported cougar sightings in Michigan, many by COs, police and other officials. Still the DNR denies that wild cougars exist in Michigan. Who do you trust, 10,000 eyewitnesses, or the DNR spin-masters? Mind you, this is the same DNR that said just a few years ago that wolves didn't exist in Michigan either.
 

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TS,

Last Sunday, I went on a snoeshoe hike led by a Ranger at the Sleeping Bear Dunes NP near Empire. There have been several recent sightings of a cougar in the park. One followed a Park volunteer quite closely for 200 yards this fall. Several deer hunters reported seeing a cougar during the rifle season in the Park. As I live near there, I spoke with Ranger Vern at length on the recent publicity. They collected scat and sent it off to a lab for DNA testing. The results: definately cougar, and North American identity. This is important b/c most pet shop big cats origin is South America. The NPS has a handout for all visitors: You are a Visitor in Cougar Habitat, which is posted at several traiheads. The NPS at Sleeping Bear is a creditable authority in my book. They believe it and so do I.

Natty B.
PS The NPS opined that the cat crossed over the Streights last winter when it was frozen over.
 

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Questions;

What CO's have said there are wild (emphasis on wild) cougars? Please identify what officials. Names will be fine which you must know since you are using them as a referance.

Define what a few years ago means to you as I'm sure you want to be specific and not put no spin on things, especially in regards to your wolf statement.

Please identify where, what publication or magzine, you read that there were 10,000 reports, agin I'm sure you don't want no spin on things.

I trust the more than 3/4 of a million deer hunters and trappers who manage every year to make it through another deer season and trapping season leaving the cougar unscathed.
 

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boehr is right on the trapping and hunting without a scratched lion, there is plenty of wolves getting cault in traps this year and in the past couple of years there been a few killed by deer hunters even though coyote season is closed in gun deer season up here there could very well be a released pet lion down in the sleepin bear np but as far as the upper penn, there isnt any wild mt.lion theres to many hunters and trappers to have not been one killed or in a trap i would love to see a stable population of lion up here but will have to settle with the useless vermins we have(i.e.wolves) I have to vote NO the last lion sighting i was called to turned out to be a wolf again most of the people that see what they think is a lion are either drunk or well on there way to being drunk or on some other drug they shouldnt be on and theres a few that hear about it and the next thing that moves they see out of the corner of ther eye they believe its a lion again there prolly half stoned
 

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I know a lot of those folks over in Sleeping Bear too...the same folks who dressed up a volunteer in full, formal National Park Service uniform, the same as a regular NPS park employee or ranger, to appear in front of a newspaper camera.

Perhaps they've changed their policy on what volunteers normally wear since I last talked to that same volunteer, who leads tours, hikes and things of that nature, last year.

The same folks who suggested implementation of a "Wilderness Management" plan for an area that hasn't been wilderness for almost two hundred years, which would have meant removing many of the species in the park, including all the coho, steelhead and brown trout in the Platte River, and removing all of the deer from North Manitou Island. The same folks with the same plan that would have closed all kinds of roads into the area that the former landowners GAVE TO THE PARK SERVICE with the express intent that the area be kept OPEN for the public's enjoyment and recreation...

This is the same National Park Service that has begun a "non-native" species removal from most of it's western properties, and if you read how some of that removal is taking place, and what species are being removed, it would raise the hair on the back of your neck...

The same National Park Service that would be THRILLED if they never saw another tourist, backpacker, kayaker, or naturalist on Isle Royale again, and suggested implementing a similar wilderness plan up there that would have effectively shut off most of Isle Royale to the public.



Would claiming the presence of cougars in Sleeping Bear Dunes help further the wilderness agenda plan suggested there?? The thought that one of our branches of federal government might even remotely consider such an agenda scares me half to death, but I haven't seen anything yet to prove me wrong-like a cougar, alive or dead, tame or wild.

I am not saying that I don't believe it MIGHT be possible for a wild cougar to exist in some of the more remote portions of the UP, like Ontonagon or Gogebic County, and occasionally venture out into areas along the Lake Michigan shoreline-cougars do have fairly large territories and do roam quite a bit, I'm told...but wild cougars in Sleeping Bear, or for that matter, ANYWHERE in the lower?? That's a real stretch.

They thought wolves walked across the ice, too, back in 98...the only thing anyone's ever found down here were released wolf/dogs.
 

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I agree with Linda on all points. Last Saturday, January 24, there was a cougar article in the Muskegon Chronicle. That article by Dave Lemieux did not show up for me to pass on to forums.
 

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linda i am sorry to inforum you but there isnt any more remote area left where you speak of in the western UP i hunt and fish where you speak its all cut up and theres 2track roads every where and theres tons of trappers and deer and bear hunters there if there was truly lions there they would get cault and yes lions roam a very large area they roam for breeding and feed sure would be nice to see a large number of them here wouldnt it man that would be nice
 

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Hey Guys,

My previous post was a "first hand" account of what I saw and heard up at SBDNL last Sunday afternoon. The occasion was a Ranger-led snowshoe hike. About 40 folks braved a bitter winter day. Nobody was drunk or high either.

Linda G:
1. Are you calling Ranger Vern a liar?

2. Are you calling the Park volunteer "E" who was followed for several hundred yards by a big cat at distances measured "in feet" a liar? She was there.

3. Are the two deer hunters who saw a big cat dragging a deer kill during rifle season liars too?

4. What about the DNA analysis of the scat samples? More lies?

5. Is EVERYBODY up at SBDNL making this up? For what purpose?

I was there - you were not. Conspiracies anybody? BTW, the cougar is a a state-listed endangered species.

Natty B.
 

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Natty-take a look at the DNR's endangered species list-it's on-line. There's hundreds of species of plants and animals on that list, and all that means is that they existed here at one time, and MAY still be present in some areas of the state-that does NOT mean they're here now for sure. Talk to Mike Piscar of the Natural Features Inventory, he'll explain all of that to you. He's in Lansing.

I'm not saying anyone's lying, I'm saying that these people have been trained to accept the policies and long range plans and goals of the National Park Service-and they do. They believe in that, fervently, just as some people in this state believe, fervently, in a number of things that you and I would doubt.

Just as any employee is trained to believe in and carry out their employer's company mission.

That's their right as an American, but don't shove it down everyone else's throat. That's when it's a threat to us all.

Ever seen a yellow or chocolate Labrador Retriever or other large breed of short-haired dog with a long tail standing 150 yards away in the rain, snow, fog, or dark?

I live up here, too, Natty, and I've talked to a LOT of people with so-called creditable sightings...every single one of those sightings either proved to be a bobcat or a dog, or sometimes even a bear...or just mysteriously went away...tracks have proven to be something else...scat could have come from the zoo...

It makes great fodder for the gossip mills, but isn't creditable science. It also brings a great deal of interest and spotlight to the National Parks.
 
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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Boehr, I don't know what year or what the CO's names were that reported seeing cougars, but it common knowledge and has been reported in many publications; look it up yourself. It probably was years ago, because if a CO in today's DNR were to report a cougar sighting, he or she would be committing career suicide due to the DNRs official stance on denying that cougars exist in Michigan. The DNR did deny the existence of wolves in the UP for many years, which is also common knowledge and to deny that now is laughable. The "10,000 people" who have reported seeing cougars in Michigan has also been reported to death in several articles, one in Wood N' Water News back in the spring. Again look it up yourself if you want to see the proof. That number is also probably much lower than the actual number of sightings as most people don't want to be ridicule by the DNR, so they keep quiet about cougar sightings. Then you say "I trust the more than 3/4 of a million deer hunters and trappers who manage every year to make it through another deer season and trapping season leaving the cougar unscathed." You seem to be forgetting that it is illegal to shoot or otherwise harm or harass a cougar in Michigan. What would you do if someone came up to you with a dead cougar that they had just killed? I'd bet they'd get arrested. And you wonder why no dead cougars have showed up. It is also illegal to chase cougars with dogs in Michigan and you wonder why no bear hunters have come forward with prove of a treed puma. If they did, then they would be arrested. To anyone who does not believe that there are wild cougars in Michigan and especially the DNR, why are cougars protected in Michigan if they don't exist?
 

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Mike, read my first paragraph in the post above yours just now...that's why the cougar is still protected, along with a wide variety of other critters and plants that haven't been seen in more than 100 years in this state. Call Piskar-he'll explain the methodology behind list.

Ok, Mike, so the DNR has some great conspiracy going...well, the hound hunters and trappers of this state don't...and if they caught something like that, they'd at least TAKE A PHOTO OF IT, don't you think??

Cats are easy to catch in a foothold trap. A lot of sets use fresh meat for bait that would lure a cougar, and a trapper in the UP out for bobcat would have caught at least PART of a cougar by now, like a toe, or bits of fur, that could be analyzed. Any trapper will tell you that. Trappers do work and cooperate with the DNR all the time-the proof that we now have at least one lynx in the UP proves that. That man willingly approached the DNR for proof of identity and to help him release the lynx-I highly doubt he was ticketed or arrested for doing that.


And any member of the Michigan Bear Hunters Association will tell you that ALL of their dogs will tree a cougar, and do it very well. A lot of these guys go to Montana and other states every year to do just that.

I know a number of coyote hunters who hunt all over the northern portion of the state and the UP...and these guys not only hunt hard, they hunt often-usually 3-4 times a week. Most of them carry cameras...If they had ever treed a cougar, they would have let us know, believe me...by that, I mean a number of the outdoor writers in this state that have hunted with them at one point or another.

As for bear/coyote/cat hunters afraid of being arrested or ticketed for treeing a cougar, none of the hunters I know are concerned about that, because they know that the DNR is fully aware that you can't always help what your dogs do.

I'll be happy to put you in touch with a number of these guys if you'd like to talk with them, or even do a hunt with them. Let me know.
 

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Natty...how do you know it was a "WILD" cougar, if in fact one was seen?

It is a well know fact that there are a fair number of people that have exotics as pets. In this District we have made arrests for two cougars which were seized and presently are working on another.:eek:

because if a CO in today's DNR were to report a cougar sighting, he or she would be committing career suicide due to the DNRs official stance on denying that cougars exist in Michigan.
Pleeeease, give me a break. CO's are not that fragil.

You posted the information that you protrayed as facts, it's up to you to answer the questions to support it. Face it, this is your spin. You can't even answer the questions. I'm done with this thread, nothing but an opinion poll, no factual information at all.:rolleyes:
 

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Linda G:

Thanks for yr reply. I simply was relating what I saw and heard up at SBDNL last Sunday afternoon. The Park volunteer "E" gave a first hand account of her experience of being followed by a big cat, she said it was a cougar. I donno about you but I dont think I'd mistake a cat 7 foot long from his nose to the tip of his tail from a yellow Lab? At close range? In broad daylight?

BTW, we didnt see any cats or see any sign on our hike either!;)

Natty B.
 

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(They thought wolves walked across the ice, too, back in 98...the only thing anyone's ever found down here were released wolf/dogs)

linda,
I dont care if there is cougars here or not but didnt thay find a radio collared wolf from the u.p. down south some were in a nother state.
 

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yup, they did, Warthog, in Missouri last year. It walked all the way down there.

But don't confuse the issue of wolves with cougars-there's no comparison.

There's thousands of wolves in the Midwest, most of them in Minnesota and Wisconsin, where the MO wolf came from, so its natural they're going to move around as populations expand.

And there's LOTS of documented evidence about wolves in the Midwest, but only a handful of cougars, if any at all...but I believe there are a few lions in extreme northern Minnesota that have been documented.
 
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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Linda, as I stated before, chasing a cougar with dogs is illegal in Michigan, even if by accident. If anybody were to present a photo or proof of a treed cat by hounds to the DNR they would likely get arrested. I spend hundreds of hours in reported cougar country every year and have never seen one or even struck a track, but that does not mean that they don't exist. If I did see one, I would not report it anyway because I would not appreciate the ridicule that I'd undoubtedly receive. Fair enough on why cougars are protected in Michigan, but as for trappers not catching any, that is off base. I used to trap in AZ and NV when I lived there and also knew many other trappers in that area, which was full of big cats. We'd see tracks all the time yet I never heard of anybody ever catching a cougar by mistake. If it doesn't happen in western states where cougars are common, then it would be extremely unlikely for a trapper to catch a cougar in Michigan. Besides, if a cougar were to be caught in a trap in Michigan, with the widespread distrust of the DNR these days along with a bumper crop of poachers, how many trappers would report such an incidental catch to the authorities anyway? How many trappers would just dispose of the cat or keep it for themselves rather than risk reporting it? I choose to keep an open mind on the Michigan cougar issue.
 

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This article, News Pub. Date: 1/24/2004, did not show up on the Muskegon Chronicle web site, so Dave emailed this to me this morning.

Cat in the shadows - Cougar sightings raise interest, but not e

Keywords LOCAL-News, with photos

Subhead: Cougar sightings raise interest, but not enough for a state study

By Dave LeMieux, Chronicle Staff Writer

A 5-inch wide paw print in the wet ground of a P.J. Hoffmaster State Park campsite stamped an exclamation mark on reports of cougar sightings at the park.
There have been other cougar sightings reported by hikers during the past two years, said Elizabeth Brockwell-Tillman, the park's Michigan Department of Natural Resources naturalist. But she remained skeptical that cougars, once considered extinct in Michigan, were prowling around Hoffmaster.

Sightings by excited hikers couldn't be confirmed without unmistakable physical evidence to back them up, such as a good set of tracks or a clear photograph.

That changed in October 2002, when a cougar startled a camper by nonchalantly trotting through his Hoffmaster campsite.

The animal left a set of fresh, clear tracks on the wet ground.

The camper's description left little doubt he'd seen a cougar. "The young man described it to a tee," Brockwell-Tillman said.

"He was pretty shook up."

A fully-grown cougar is about 9 feet long and weighs close to 200 pounds. The tan-colored big cat has black markings on its sides, muzzle, the backs of its ears and on the tip of its tail.

Brockwell-Tillman took a series of photographs of the tracks, which were later identified as those of a cougar by wildlife biologist Patrick Rusz, director of the Michigan Wildlife Conservancy's wildlife programs.

The conservancy has declared 2004 the "year of the cougar," and is asking that cougar sightings be reported to its office in Bath at (517) 641-7677.

The autumn encounter at Hoffmaster is one in a steadily growing number of reported sightings around the state and nation.

The most dramatic took place Sept. 28 at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore near Empire.

For 20 minutes, a large cougar padded alongside National Park Service volunteer Eleanor Comings as she walked nervously down a Benzie County trail.

Until it melted back into the woods, the big cat never strayed more than 5 feet from the astonished Comings.

Experts say cougar attacks on people are rare, even in states like California, where there are large populations of the animal.

A recent fatal attack in California was only the 13th in the past 114 years. However, according to a Reuters news service report, fatal cougar attacks have been increasing since 1970, with eight reported in California and Washington in the last decade.


A state predator

Called cougars in Michigan, the big cats are known by a variety of other names elsewhere, including mountain lion, puma, panther and catamount.

They are powerful, silent predators. Their preferred method for killing large prey, such as deer, is by leaping on the animal's back and breaking its neck with a powerful bite to the base of its skull.

Comings' encounter prompted the National Park Service to post signs at Sleeping Bear Dunes warning visitors about the cougars.

Brockwell-Tillman wonders if the cougar that visited Hoffmaster might have come from Sleeping Bear Dunes.

"Some of the research is showing that cougars could be using the lakeshore corridor for travel," she said.

In November, a Mason County woman reported seeing a cougar on the Lake Michigan beach north of Pentwater near Bass Lake.

A neighbor later photographed what appear to be cougar tracks on the beach in the same vicinity.

Cougar sightings also have been reported in Ottawa County in the past year.

A cougar's range can cover up to 250 square miles, said Rusz, and the cat can travel 30 miles in a day.

The conservancy's research suggests there are remnant cougar populations in the southern Upper Peninsula and northeastern Lower Peninsula.


Fighting for study

In addition to firing the imagination of wildlife enthusiasts, the sightings are fueling a growing controversy.

It is a debate that has turned nasty at times.

Rusz maintains that the state's native cougar population was not hunted to extinction by 1906, as once thought.

He says there is enough evidence to support his contention that a small group of native cougars survived and is still struggling to hold on.

Though none have been killed or captured, cougar sightings have been trickling in for nearly a century, said Rusz.

By 1989, there had been enough sightings for the DNR to change the big cat's status from extinct to endangered.

Rusz said the conservancy has documented more than 700 credible sightings in the last five years alone.

"We're probably dealing with fewer than 80 animals in the whole state," Rusz said. He added that's only an estimate, based as much on informed speculation as on hard evidence.

That's not good enough, says Ray Rustem, supervisor of the DNR's Natural Heritage Unit.

"It seems there are some cougars out there," Rustem said, but that doesn't mean they've been living here all along.

Pet cougars have been released into the wild in the past, said Rustem, mostly in southeastern Michigan. An Illinois man was recently convicted for releasing a pet cougar in a state wildlife area.

Cougars also could have traveled here from outside the state, he said.

If cougars have survived here for almost a century, Rustem said, why hasn't anyone shot one, treed one, caught one or hit one with a car since 1906?

That's the same question that bothers retired U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service fisheries biologist Tom Hamilton.

Since 1987, Hamilton has seen almost every critter imaginable cross his land along the White River.

"I haven't made up my mind," said Hamilton. "But one thing really bothers me. There are 700,000 deer hunters in Michigan every year, and not one has shot a cat.

"I doubt anything could be that reclusive."

More to the point, Rustem said, DNR scientists haven't documented anywhere near the number of cougar sightings as the conservancy. And DNR surveys haven't produced any confirmed cougar tracks.

Rustem doesn't share the conservancy's belief that there is enough hard evidence to justify an expensive large-scale study.

"If we're going to be putting a large amount of time and money into a project, we have to believe there's a reasonable chance of success," he said.


Will they survive?

Whether the state's cougars are native, pets gone wild or new arrivals from out-of-state, they face a very uncertain future.

The growing number of cougar sightings is not evidence that the number of cougars is growing, said Rusz.

Rusz suspects it simply means the state's growing human population is moving into the previously undeveloped land cougars prefer.

Given the state's plentiful supply of the cougar's favorite prey, the white-tailed deer, the cat's population should be much larger, Rusz said.

If there is a small population of native cougars, it is in danger of in-breeding, Rusz said. The cats may be breeding, but the population isn't genetically diverse enough to ensure its continued survival.

The cat's future could depend on the introduction of females from elsewhere to beef up the gene pool, said Rusz.

Without a definitive study, the cougar debate is likely to rage on.

There's just enough evidence to spark a debate and not enough to settle it, said biologist Hamilton.

"I hope there are cougars out there," he said. "But my gut feeling says, why isn't it better documented?"


On the 'Net

Here's where to find more information:

* Michigan Wildlife Conservancy: www.miwildlife.org/

cougar.html

* Cougar facts: www.tdscats.com/cougar_

links.html

* Eastern cougar network: www.easterncougarnet.org/uppermidwest.htm

FAXBOX:
Cougar facts

* Top speed: 35 mph.

* Length: 7 to 9 feet.

* Weight: 150 to 200 pounds.

* Vertical leap: 15 feet.

* Broad jump: 40 feet.

* Color: Tawny, reddish brown or grayish brown coat with black markings on face, flanks and tail tip.

* Estimated number in Michigan: Fewer than 80.
 
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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Originally posted by boehr
You posted the information that you protrayed as facts, it's up to you to answer the questions to support it. Face it, this is your spin. You can't even answer the questions. I'm done with this thread, nothing but an opinion poll, no factual information at all.
There goes boehr again with his insults and innuendoes. If he doesn't agree with something someone else posts, then he sums those comments up as, "No factual information," or some other such dribble. And you wonder why I don't dig up the proof he asks for? Why, just so he can belittle it or other wise dismiss it. I won't fall into that trap again. I thought you were not going to respond to any of my posts anymore anyway boehr. What ever happened to that pledge? It appears to me that every time a thread starts that you don't like, you try to pick a fight so the thread can get closed down.
 

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Mike I didn't say a cougar could be caught in a regular coyote or fox set, they're too small, but cougars could and would leave evidence that they were there, if not a toe or fur, at least tracks where they stood when they sniffed the set, or stole the bait, perhaps even scat in the area.

As for would the DNR arrest or ticket someone who accidentally treed a cougar, I've forwarded that very question to DNR Law Enforcement in Lansing, let's see what they say.

The CO's I know are far more interested in working with the people and in having a good relationship with the law-abiding citizens of the area, and I can't see them doing anything that would be viewed by the general public as Gestapo-like tactics.
 

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Trophy Specialist, your attack on boehr was insulting, malicious, and unwarranted. Just because he does not share the same opinion as you do on certain issues is no reason for a personal attack. In my opinion, you owe him an apology.
 
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