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      Three cougar sightings confirmed

      Marquette County cougar sighting, June 2012

      The Michigan Department of Natural Resources has confirmed three separate cougar photos taken recently in the Upper Peninsula.

      Two photos were taken in October in Menominee County, one near Cedar River and another just north of the Wisconsin border, according to the DNR. The cougar spotted in these two photos had a radio collar on, similar to the collar identified in previous sightings in 2011, according to officials.

      The third photo taken was from a trail camera in Marquette County in November. The cougar shown in the photo is not wearing a radio collar.

      The DNR does not place radio collars on cougars; North Dakota and South Dakota are the nearest states where researchers have placed collars on the animals to track their movement.

      All three cougar photos were taken on private property and the landowners have asked to remain anonymous. DNR staff said they have been to each sighting location and verified the photos.

      There have been 20 sightings of cougars in the Upper Peninsula verified since 2008, according to the DNR officials. The DNR has confirmed 11 photos, eight separate sets of tracks, and one trail camera video in UP counties including Baraga, Chippewa, Delta, Houghton, Keweenaw, Mackinac, Marquette, Menominee, Ontonagon and Schoolcraft.

      ??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 said that the closest established cougar population is located in the Dakotas, and that cougars can travel hundreds of miles in search of new territory. A cougar hit and killed by a car in Connecticut in 2011 was shown to originate from South Dakota using DNA evidence, according to the DNR.

      Wildlife biologists said that cougars were native to Michigan, but disappeared from the state in the early 1900s.

      Reports of cougar evidence should be sent to local DNR officials, or by submitting the sighting on the DNR's website www.michigan.gov/cougars. Cougars are classified as an endangered species in Michigan, and it is unlawful to kill, harass or otherwise harm a cougar except in the immediate defense of human safety.