The Michigan Wildlife Conservancy has released results of an investigation that appears to validate a cougar presence in Michigan. The apparent cougar was photographed near the south shore of Glen Lake in Leelanau County:
On Labor Day, September 7, 2009 Dr. Jerome Wiater and his adult son, Christian, observed what they believed to be a cougar (mountain lion) at about 3:30 p.m. on a clear, sunny day. The sighting was along County Road 675 near its intersection with County Road 616. Dr. Wiater, an orthopedic surgeon (MD) residing in Bingham Farms, Michigan, was walking to Glen Lake with a camera in hand, planning to water ski. He and Christian (who was nearby) were startled to see a large, long-tailed cat they believed was about the size of a big dog. Dr. Wiater snapped two photos of the animal—one when it was in shade and the other when the animal was walking in a shallow roadside depression through a more sunny spot approximately 209 feet away.
The site is adjacent to the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore where the National Park Service has had “cougar warning” signs at its trailheads since fall of 2003. Dr. Patrick Rusz, director of wildlife programs for the Wildlife Conservancy, took measurements and photos of objects of known size at the site and analyzed the photos in consultation with forensic photography experts. His conclusion is that the animal had the profile (llikely more than 30 inches long) and coloration of a cougar and was too large to be a house cat.
"Both Jerome and Christian Wiater stated that the animal they observed was about the same size as their pet hound," noted Dr. Rusz. "Based on my analysis, it may have been slightly smaller than the dog, but was definitely the size of a small cougar. The Wiater photos, along with decades of sighting reports and tracks found in the same general area during the past 9 years, provide compelling evidence of the presence of cougars in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore area."
Click the photo above to see it bigger or head over to Flickr. You can also see Rusz's full report and see the larger photos at the Michigan Wildlife Conservancy and read more about Michigan cougars at Absolute Michigan.