News By Tag
News By Location
Cougar Photographed in Leelanau County, MI
The Michigan Wildlife Conservancy, a private, non-profit organization based in Bath, Michigan, released results of an investigation that confirms a 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.
Dr. Patrick Rusz, director of wildlife programs for the Wildlife Conservancy, took measurements and photos of objects of known size at the site on September 9 accompanied by Christian Wiater, a National Park Service employee, and another witness. Dr. Rusz analyzed the photos in consultation with forensic photography experts and concluded that the animal had the profile and coloration of a cougar and was too large to be a house cat. Specifically, he found that the cat was likely more than 30 inches long from nose to end of body (excluding tail). House cats typically have body lengths of 18 inches. The cat’s body was at least 10.9 inches from top of back to bottom of chest/belly, just slightly less than for a mount of an adult cougar that Dr. Rusz measured as part of his investigation.
“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.
The Michigan Wildlife Conservancy has been researching the cougar population in Michigan since 1998. By March 2001 the organization had seen enough physical and anecdotal evidence to conclude that both peninsulas of Michigan were home to small, remnant cougar populations. In 2003 the Conservancy collected scats in eight Michigan counties that Central Michigan University analyzed and found cougar DNA. The results of this DNA study were printed in the April 2006 American Midland Naturalist, a peer-reviewed, science journal published by Notre Dame University.
Copies of the full text of Dr. Rusz’ report along with photos used in his analysis are available on our website at: http://www.miwildlife.org/
# # #
About The Michigan Wildlife Conservancy: