After long absence, cougars return to Wisconsin

Published: Jan. 24, 2018 at 4:52 PM CST
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After disappearing from the Wisconsin landscape for more than a century, cougars are roaming the state.

That includes here in Northeast Wisconsin.

Confirmed reports of cougars have soared over the past six months.

From Antigo in Langlade County to Rosendale in Fond du Lac County, and many locations in between, trail cameras are capturing cougars on the prowl.

"Deer are going to be their primary prey in Wisconsin and we certainly have a good supply of deer in the state," says Jane Wiedenhoeft, DNR Assistant Large Carnivore Specialist.

After disappearing from Wisconsin around 1900, it would be more than a century until confirmation of a cougar in the state, in 2008, near Milton.

Since then, the DNR reports a confirmed sighting, or two, every year except for 2016.

This past summer, a DNR map showed an explosion of cougars caught on camera, in 17 different locations.

Based on the time and location, wildlife biologists say at least two cougars are roaming the state, and likely more.

"So far no evidence of a resident population establishing, but we anticipate that could happen at some point in the future," says Wiedenhoeft.

According to Wiedenhoeft, a growing population in the Dakotas is forcing some cougars, usually males, to wander east.

Based on the increased sightings, research is set to increase as well.

"Why are these animals showing up and what areas they're using and how quickly they're moving through, or moving around the state," says Wiedenhoeft.

Despite their presence, the DNR has not received any reports of livestock depredation or negative interactions with people, and in Wisconsin, cougars are a protected species.

While not considered a threat to public safety, Wiedenhoeft has this advice if you encounter one:

"The instinct of large predators when they see something running is to chase it, so don't run, face the animal, make yourself look as large as you can, if it starts to approach you make noise, throw things at it and slowly back away," says Wiedenhoeft.