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Cougars in Michigan's upper and lower peninsulas likely from the Dakotas

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Michigan cougars were once thought to have been killed off in the 1900s; however photographs, tracks, sightings by researchers and scat DNA prove cougars are in Michigan, according to the Michigan Wildlife Conservancy.

Cougars have been identified in both the upper and lower peninsulas of Michigan. Sightings and scat (feces) that contain cougar DNA have been found in the U.P. counties of Baraga, Delta, Dickinson, Marquette, Houghton and Menominee. The L.P. counties include Alcona, Emmet, Presque Isle and Roscommon.

The latest photo of a cougar was taken June 1, 2012 with a trail camera in Marquette County. The same camera also photographed coyotes, wolves and fishers. On May 5, the presence of a cougar was confirmed in Baraga County.

Cougars are also known as mountain lions, pumas, catamounts and panthers. These large wild cats were thought to be extinct in Michigan with the last cougar taken in 1906 near Newberry. It is thought that the current cougar population is from cougars coming from North and South Dakota or pets that have been released or escaped.

Cougars prey on white-tailed deer, beaver, coyotes, rabbits, bobcats, birds, fish and frogs. Cougars have been known to kill people, however only 13 people have been killed by cougars in the last 113 years. Dogs have killed more people than cougars.

If you are threatened by a cougar you should stand upright and face the cougar. Appear large by raising your arms and opening your jacket. Do not run or bend over. Running causes the cougar to chase and attack. Back away slowly without turning your back. Throw stones, sticks or branches at it. You do not want to appear as prey, you want the cougar to think you are a danger to it.

Michigan law protects cougars and has them on the endangered species list. They are tan or brown with a very long tail. From the nose to the tip of the tail they are usually 7-9 feet long. They weight 80-200 pounds.

Anyone who spots a cougar should report it to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

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