Whereabouts of Wisconsin's cougar unknownIt has been a month since Department of Natural Resources wildlife officials tried unsuccessfully to place a radio collar on a cougar or mountain lion in western Washburn County. The current location of the large cat is unknown and is Wisconsin’s second verified cougar sighting in 14 months.
It has been a month since Department of Natural Resources wildlife officials tried unsuccessfully to place a radio collar on a cougar or mountain lion in western Washburn County. The current location of the large cat is unknown and is Wisconsin’s second verified cougar sighting in 14 months.
“The cougar appeared in good health and we wanted to keep him that way,” said DNR Wildlife Biologist Ken Jonas, “after several days of tracking him field conditions had deteriorated to the point that we were unable to locate him again.”
Had they been able to get close enough the biologists would have darted the cougar with an immobilizing agent and put a tracking collar on it.
That was on March 5 and shortly after most of northern Wisconsin’s snow melted. It is easier to find an animal and trail it when there is snow on the ground, according to Jonas. He requests people in the area report any sightings to the department. A few people have called but the reported sightings could not be verified by field staff.
Should the opportunity present itself wildlife crews would once again like to try and capture the cat.
“We would like to get a radio collar on it to learn more about this animal, including localized and long distance movements, habitat use and selection,” Jonas said. “But we will do so only if it can be accomplished without harm to the animal.”
By following the animal, biologists would know if it stayed in Wisconsin or moved into an adjacent state.
Should it stay, Jonas and his crews would like to know how the cougar deals with residential areas, farms, and highways. Would this cougar lead us to other cougars, Jonas wonders?
“Getting the animal radio-collared would be a major step in learning about what is happening with cougars in Wisconsin and get us away from mere speculations to hard science,” he said.
The wildlife biologists gave up the chase near the Burnett-Washburn county line north of highway 70, a densely wooded area with few people. This is quite different from Wisconsin’s first verified cougar that was found in Rock County over a year ago. That cat was eventually shot and killed by police officers in a Chicago suburb.
“We are not sure where the Washburn County cat came from,” Jonas said, “but with cougar populations expanding in South Dakota and Canada we suspect it could have come from either of those two places. A young male cougar, like this one, can travel long distances looking for new territory or a mate.”
Anyone sighting a cougar should report it to their nearest DNR office. Jonas advises to observe it at a distance and try of get a photo of it. If it leaves foot prints in the mud or sand, Jonas said to cover the track with a can or box to maintain its shape and prevent weathering.
“Cougar tracks are hard to distinguish from the front paw print of a bear,” the wildlife biologist explained.
People wanting more information about cougars or mountain lions can check out the department’s website at: http://dnr.wi.gov/org/land/er/mammals/cougar/index.htm.