A couple of summers ago I was exploring some areas of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in NW Michigan. I was surprised to notice signs in a few of the parking areas mentioning the presence of cougars in the area. I couldn't help but think, "Really, cougars here?" Upon further investigation, I was fascinated to find out that every year or two there are a trickle of cougar sightings in Michigan, although most of them seem to occur in the Upper Peninsula.
A few days ago a remarkable photograph showed up in a number of news stories.
This big cat was photographed via trail cam on private property in Marquette County, Michigan. The photo was released by the Michigan Wildlife Conservancy. Pretty cool stuff if you ask me. If you look into the issue more, it turns out there a few organizations that keep track of cougar sightings in Michigan, and there are a number of trail cam pics, tracks, hair samples, etc which have all been identified as cougars!
The DNR website states they were all extirpated at the turn of the century in the 1900s, but it does acknowledge sightings and provides a place to report any possible sightings. Cougars are currently listed as Endangered in Michigan. They even have a Michigan Cougar FAQ page.
You can also visit www.savethecougar.org for an updated account of Michigan cougar sightings. Many are up north, and some have pictures, but I was shocked to see a number of "sightings" from southern counties like Macomb, Clinton, Oakland and Washtenaw. I find a few of these hard to swallow a bit...
I love when our outdoors areas really feel wild. I might be in the minority, but having native cougars and wolves in Michigan is pretty darn cool.