Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Michigan DNR: No plans for U.P. cougars

By Dionna Harris
POSTED: November 11, 2009

ESCANABA - Although it has been confirmed there are cougars in the Upper Peninsula, the Department of Natural Resources is not looking to develop management plans.

Brian Roell, a wildlife biologist with the DNR, said although there has been confirmation made recently through a trail camera in the eastern Upper Peninsula, cougars will remain a non-game species in Michigan.

"As a non-game species, it remains illegal to shoot cougars in Michigan," said Roell.

He also said while the photo taken confirms the presence of cougars in the state, there is no evidence of the presence of a breeding population of the big cats in the state.

Cougars, in general males, tend to have long distance range for territory and are quite solitary animals.

This is due to the need for wide range territory that makes it difficult for wildlife biologists to determine if there is a breeding population or not in the state.

"There is no indication of a breeding population, either by virtue of evidence collected or from the one photo taken," said Roell.

Roell noted the last confirmed presence of a cougar in Delta County occurred in 2008, when there was evidence of one along the Rapid River Truck Trail and another report of one east of Forest Highway 13.

"Cougars are not migratory animals despite their long range traveling, there is one record of a collared cougar traveling 700 miles or more," said Roell. "This particular animal was collared in Minnesota and found in the Dakotas."

Roell also said while whitetail deer are the species of choice for cougars, he did not believe the presence of one or more of the large cats would have a visible impact on the deer population.

"Currently there is a predation study underway in Delta County concerning the deer population," said Roell.

The study underway will reflect the impact of the winter severity index, along with wolf, coyote and black bear predation on whitetail herds, according to Roell.

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