July 19, 2012
A trail cam in southern Marquette County operated by the Michigan Wildlife Conservancy (MWC) recently captured the above photo of a cougar. Dr. Patrick Rusz, Director of Wildlife Programs for the MWC and retired DNR forester Michael Zuidema verified the trail camera’s location on a well-worn wildlife trail atop a wooded ridge. The camera has also photographed wolves, coyotes, fishers and numerous other species at the same site over a four year period.
The MWC is publicizing this photograph because it may be the best, clearest photograph of a wild Michigan cougar ever taken. It is also unusually interesting because Mr. Zuidema has recorded over twenty credible cougar sightings in the same vicinity since the 1970s. These include several sightings within a few miles of the trail camera location.
Dr. Rusz stated that “the long history of sighting reports in the area indicates the cougar photographed on June 1 may be part of a resident population rather than a wandering cat from a western state.” Dr. Rusz has studied cougars for the Conservancy for 14 years and is co-author of a peer-reviewed study that confirmed cougars in both peninsulas of Michigan by analyses of DNA in droppings. He has also identified a long list of additional physical evidence dating back to 1966, and notes that Michigan State College zoologist Richard Manville documented several cougar sightings or incidents when he inventoried the fauna of Marquette County’s Huron Mountains from 1939 to 1942.
“The MDNR cougar team should now look at the very good evidence of a remnant cougar population collected before 2008,” said Bill Taylor, President of the Conservancy. “They could still easily verify cougar photos taken in the 1990’s in Alcona and Oscoda Counties in the Lower Peninsula and some others. The vegetation and other landmarks needed to confirm the photos are still there.”
You can compare the photograph above with photos of a wolf, coyote, raccoon, and porcupine taken by the same camera in the same location at the MWC website at www.miwildlife.org.
The Michigan Wildlife Conservancy is a non-profit citizens group established to restore Michigan’s wildlife legacy. They have restored more than 8,200 acres of wetlands, 2,500 acres of prairies and grasslands, and hundreds of miles of trout streams, and helped with several rare species recoveries and the creation of many backyard habitats.