MANISTIQUE - Michigan Department of Natural Resources law enforcement officials have confirmed a cougar was illegally killed last week in Schoolcraft County.
Acting on a tip that a cougar had been illegally killed at a hunting camp in northeast Schoolcraft County, DNR conservation officers and Special Investigations Unit detectives were able to successfully recover evidence and identify and apprehend two suspects from Bay County.
Upon completion of the DNR's investigation, the case will be turned over to the Schoolcraft County Prosecuting Attorney with warrant requests for charges. The state penalty for illegally killing a cougar, classified as an endangered species in Michigan, is up to 90 days in jail and fines and restitution of up to $2,500.
Anyone with information about this or any other poaching case is encouraged to call the DNR's Report All Poaching (RAP) hotline at 800-292-7800, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Information can also be reported online at www.michigan.gov/conservationofficers. Tips and information can be left anonymously; information that leads to an arrest and conviction is eligible for a cash reward funded by the state's Game and Fish Protection Fund.
A trail camera photo of a cougar near the same area as this incident was recently confirmed by the DNR's Wildlife Division. Wildlife officials believe the animal killed was most likely the same cougar seen in the recent photo.
Cougars, also known as mountain lions, disappeared from the state in the early 1900s. The last confirmed wild cougar in Michigan prior to 2008 was an animal killed near Newberry in 1906.
Since 2008, the DNR has confirmed photos or tracks of cougars on 23 occasions in 10 Upper Peninsula counties. The animals are believed to be young individuals dispersing from established populations in the Dakotas in search of new territory. There is no evidence of a breeding population of cougars in the state.
The Wildlife Division's specially trained cougar team welcomes citizen reports of possible cougar evidence or sightings. Cougar photos and other evidence - such as tracks, scat or cached kills - should be reported to a local DNR office or through the DNR's online reporting form at www.michigan.gov/cougars.