For years there were sightings.
Then in 2008, came the tracks.
In 2009, came a photo.
Now, there’s a video — a cougar roaming Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
(Video: Michigan Department of Natural Resources. Owners of trail camera did not want to be identified)
A trail camera on private property in northwestern Upper Peninsula captured the cougar on Sept. 8. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources visited the property in Ontonagon County earlier this week and verified the camera’s location.
The cougar had an ear tag and a radio collar. Only western states tag and collar cougars for research, so Michigan state officials are trying to track down where the big cat came from.
Cougars were native to Michigan but were thought to have no population left at the turn of the 20th century. They are listed as an endangered species in Michigan. The closest established populations are in North and South Dakota — over 900 miles away.
Citizen sightings in Michigan have remained constant but hard to verify. There are multiple citizen groups and environmental organizations that compile sightings and encourage the state to recognize its presence (Michigan Citizens for Cougar Recognition, Save the Cougar, Michigan Wildlife Conservancy).
Prior to this video, the Department of Natural Resources verified sets of tracks, a study that found positive scat samples, a photo, and DNA from a hair sample on a car bumper, but did not go so far as to formally acknowledge a population of cougars in the state.
That may be difficult now.
Featured photo: digitalART2 (Flickr)