By: Tyler Travis
Summary: Cougars have been native to Michigan for many years, but were trapped, hunted, and mostly eliminated from Michigan around the beginning of the 1900’s. However, they are starting to make a comeback. Since 2008, there have been a reported 43 cougar sightings in Michigan, mostly in the upper peninsula. Considering we have only reported 43, only one could imagine how many more are looming throughout the state. These species are only increasing in Michigan and could be a very serious threat and problem in the future. The Department of Natural Resources will continue to trap these cats and try to eliminate them from northern Michigan. However, with no real estimate on how many cougars there are, or where they are located, it could be a rising problem for several years. It is entirely possible that some of these cougars were released or escaped pets from pet owners. However, many of them most likely migrated here from North and South Dakota, approximately 900 miles away from here. So far in 2019, there have been five confirmed cougar sightings. This number is expected to increase until the Department of Natural Resources can find an efficient and effective way to remove the cats from Michigan. Cougars often live in rural, remote areas that offer a lot of cover and have a large amount of prey. The cougars main source of prey is deer which is why they are completely capable of thriving in Michigan and growing their herd. They can also cover large distances very quickly which makes trapping them and tracking them very challenging. I am afraid the cougar problem may get much worse before it gets better.
We we should care? The expansion of cougars back into Michigan poses several potential environmental problems. If not contained properly, these cougars could prey on a number of species and disrupting their niches. Cougars may also kill livestock, pets and can even pose a threat to humans.
Example of News Article:
As a deer hunter, I find this topic very interesting. If the cougar population gets too high, there could be a very serious threat to the deer population. Although whitetail deer are very plentiful in Michigan, if the cougars get out of hand, they could drastically decrease the population. I found it very interesting that these cats could have migrated over 900 miles from the Western Hemisphere over to Michigan. I am very concerned because if we’re not even sure how many cougars there are in the state, I don’t know how we could expect to get them out. We also need to act on this problem quickly, as the cats will continuing increasing because they are not preyed upon.
Science in Action.
Dr. Patrick Rusz is the Director of Wildlife Programs for the Wildlife Conservancy.
Dr. Patrick Rusz has documented cougar tracks, droppings, and cougar-killed deer in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore area since 2001. They found evidence of cougar existence which resulted in the first time a government agency had clearly acknowledged the presence of cougars in Michigan. This was very important because it got the ball rolling and starting conversation about the potential problems with cougar existence. Dr. Rusz and his team at the Wildlife Conservancy have been very helpful and have created awareness among researchers, the Department of Natural Resources, and citizens who could be threatened from these cats. Since Dr. Rusz found evidence proving cougar existence in Michigan, there has been more research and focus on controlling the cougar outbreak.