If the stuffed cougar above could talk, he would have quite a story to tell.
During the 2013 muzzle-loader deer hunting season in the Upper Peninsula, conservation officers received a tip that a cougar had been killed at a hunting camp near Seney. “The investigation revealed the animal was shot and wounded with a rifle when it entered a field near the camp,” said DNR Sgt. Mike Hammill. “The following day, the cougar was tracked down and killed by one of the suspects.”
Hammill said the suspects returned home to Bay City with the cougar, intending to mount the animal.
“Before this took place, three suspects were identified, interviewed and ultimately arrested and the cougar was recovered,” Hammill said. “The suspects involved were all convicted, served jail time, paid several thousand dollars in fines, costs and restitution, and lost hunting privileges for several years.”
As a part of the sentence, the shooter was required to pay the cost of having the animal mounted.
The mount has been used to educate people, and has been displayed around the state.
Could cougars make their way to Jackson County?
All of Michigan’s DNR-verified cougar reports have come from the Upper Peninsula, where 12 of the region’s 15 counties have had reports. While the DNR has not officially confirmed sightings in the lower-peninsula, rumors of big cat sightings persist, and have even taken on “local legend” status. In the 1980’s, sightings of a large black cat were reported throughout Washtenaw and Jackson counties, and seemed to center in the Manchester area. Locals dubbed it a panther, and speculation that it had been freed or escaped persisted, but there was never official confirmation that a big cat was making the area home.
The internet seems to spur on more unofficial sightings, with postings from trail cameras occasionally making their way online. The DNR, however, has not confirmed any of the sightings.
At one time, cougars lived in every eastern state in a variety of habitats including coastal marshes, mountains and forests. They were native to Michigan, but were extirpated from the state around the turn of the 20th century.
These big, long-tailed cats typically hunt at night, generally weigh between 90 and 180 pounds and measure 5 to 6 feet from the tip of the nose to the base of the tail.
The DNR has confirmed 31 cougar reports in the Upper Peninsula since 2008, but so far there remains no evidence confirmed of a breeding population.
“Within the last decade, numerous cougar sighting reports have been received from various locations in Michigan and are investigated by DNR Wildlife Division’s cougar team,” said Kevin Swanson, a DNR wildlife biologist in Marquette.
The most recent confirmed mountain lion report occurred in September with DNR verification of a trail-camera image in Dickinson County.
“This situation is not unique to Michigan, but has been occurring in many other Midwestern and eastern states as young males disperse from core range areas in the western United States,” Swanson said.