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Michigan DNR Verifies 3 UP Cougar Sightings

MENOMINEE (WWJ/AP) - The Michigan Department of Natural Resources has verified three recent photos of cougars taken by trail cameras in the Upper Peninsula.

The DNR said Wednesday that two of the photos were taken in October in Menominee County, and the third picture was from Marquette County in November.

The Menominee County shots showed a cougar with a radio collar, while the cougar in Marquette County didn't have one.

The DNR doesn't put radio collars on cougars. It says North Dakota and South Dakota are the nearest states where wildlife researchers have placed radio collars on cougars to track their movement.

"The increasing number and frequency of verified cougar sightings in recent years are likely due to three factors in particular: The growing popularity of trail cameras used to monitor wildlife activity in the woods 24 hours a day; additional transient cougars moving east from established populations in western states as they seek new territory; and the cooperation of the public in reporting cougar sightings and sharing their photos with us for official review, which we greatly appreciate," said Adam Bump, one of four DNR biologists specially trained to investigate cougar reports.

The DNR says established cougar populations are found as close to Michigan as the Dakotas, and transient cougars dispersing from these areas have been known to travel hundreds of miles in search of new territory. Officials haven't been able to determine the origin of the radio-collared cougar that's in Michigan.

Cougars, also known as mountain lions, were native to Michigan, but disappeared from the state in the early 1900s. The DNR verified the presence of cougars in the U.P. 20 times since 2008. The last confirmed wild cougar in Michigan prior to 2008 was an animal killed near Newberry in 1906.

Cougars are classified as an endangered species in Michigan, which means it's unlawful "to kill, harass or otherwise harm the animals except in the immediate defense of human safety."

DNR officials say the odds of encountering a cougar in the wild are very small and attacks are extremely rare, but those who encouter a cougar are advised to the following:

  • Face the animal and do not act submissive. Stand tall, wave your arms, and talk in a loud voice.
  • Never run from a cougar or other large carnivore. If children are present, pick them up so they cannot run.
  • If attacked, fight back with whatever is available. DO NOT play dead.
  • Report the encounter to local authorities and the DNR as soon as possible

Learn more about cougars or report a sighting at this link.

(TM and © Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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