24 Hour News 8 web staff -
BATH TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) -- The Michigan Department of Natural Resources for the first time has confirmed the presence of a cougar in the state's Lower Peninsula.
The cougar was spotted on June 21 in Clinton County's Bath Township, which is located northeast of Lansing, according to a DNR release.
A Haslett resident was driving near the Rose Lake Wildlife Area when he spotted the cougar with his headlights. He said he took the photo as the cat tried to cross the road before turning around into a wooded area, the DNR said.
After the DNR received the photo on June 26, the DNR Cougar Team determined the animal in the photo was in fact a cougar. However, DNR wildlife specialist Kevin Swanson said it's unclear how the cougar ended up in the area.
"Even with this verification, questions remain, especially regarding the origins of the animal," he said in the release. "There is no way for us to know if this animal is a dispersing transient from a western state, like cougars that have been genetically tested from the Upper Peninsula, or if this cat was released locally."
Cougars, which are protected under Michigan's Endangered Species Act, were originally native to the state. However, they were expatriated around 1900, according to the DNR. While the spotting of 36 cougars have been documented in the Upper Peninsula since 2008, no breeding population has been confirmed.
The DNR is encouraging Clinton County residents to put cameras on their properties and report any sightings to mi.gov/eyesinthefield with photos and don't disturb the area.
While the possibility is rare, if you encounter a cougar, the DNR offers the following tips:
- Stand tall, wave your arms and use a loud voice – don't turn from the cougar or act submissive by getting on all fours.
- Don't run from the cougar or allow children to run from it.
- If attacked, fight back. Do not play dead.
- Report the encounter to the DNR immediately.
----Online:Michigan DNR: Cougar information