IRONWOOD — The Department of Natural Resources announced this week that it had confirmed a cougar sighting in the Upper Peninsula.
It's the 39th confirmed sighting since 2008, 38 of which were in the U.P. Another was near Lansing, in Bath Township in 2017.
Cadillac-based wildlife biologist Vern Richardson said he's never confirmed a cougar in local counties but would love to see evidence if you have it.
"Housecats produce an astounding number of cougar photos that get submitted to me," Richardson said.
Still, send that picture, he urged.
"I can only work with what people provide me with," he said.
Richardson said lots of photos he reviews are clearly something else, but that's because he knows what he's looking for.
Search engine results can be misleading.
Simply mentioning the word "cougar" in a conversation about a photograph of animal tracks can make that photo show up in search results, according to Richardson. To an experienced eye, the tracks obviously belong to another animal.
“If you don't know how to properly analyze the photo you won't realize you're being shown misinformation," he said.
The cougar sighting recently confirmed by the DNR happened in daylight hours on July 7 in Gogebic County. A landowner's trail camera captured the shot, which is close to where a cougar was found last year on a Deer Movement Study trail camera, the DNR said.
The DNR says some of the 39 confirmed cougar sightings in Michigan over the past decade may include "multiple sightings of the same cougar."
In a news release, the DNR said there's still no "conclusive evidence" that cougars are breeding in Michigan. Genetic testing on two poached cougars showed that the animals "likely came from a population found generally in South Dakota, Wyoming and northwest Nebraska."
While cougars were once native to Michigan, the big cats "were trapped and hunted from the state around the turn of the 20th century."
Though housecats account for a number of mistaken cougar sightings on trail cams (Richardson said multiple photos from a site, including photos of humans there for scale, can help to rule out housecat mix-ups), people also sometimes think they've seen cougar tracks when really dogs or bear caused the marks.
Especially near Cadillac, if snowfall comes before bears hibernate, people can think they've spotted a cougar track when really it belongs to a bear, Richardson said.
You can report suspected cougar and other animal sightings online at the DNR's "Eyes in the Field" website, https://secure1.state.mi.us/ORS/Home.