MUSKEGON, Mich. — The state of Michigan is seeing an increase in some unusual wildlife
“In 2020, we confirmed actually 14 cougar reports," said Cody Norton from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.
All except one were spotted in the Upper Peninsula. It is the most in a single year since the Michigan Department of Natural Resources started keeping track. Norton noted that before 2008, the DNR didn't have a reliable way of documenting cougar sightings, even when signs pointed to the sightings being genuine. In response, a cougar team was started to track of the tips.
Technology has made tracking easier. "With trail cameras and everybody just having a cell phone in their pocket, they can take pictures (...) when these animals show up."
Cougars are native to Michigan, and Norton says they are the most widely-distributed land mammal in the Western Hemisphere. "They're actually found in North America, Central and South America, but they didn't used to be ... They disappeared from most of the eastern US by the late-1800s," Norton said.
He says hunting and the change in the ecosystem has contributed to the population change in the state. There isn’t any evidence of a breeding population in Michigan.
"They probably aren't going to be just setting up shop and living there for a long time."
Norton says isn’t likely you’ll run into one of the big cats here in West Michigan. Most of the sightings have been in the UP.
If you think you see a cougar, you can report your sighting to Michigan.gov/cougars.