On May 18, 2012 the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) confirmed the sighting of a mountain lion near the small community of Skanee in the Michigan Upper Peninsula.
The actual sighting took place on May 5, 2012 when Baraga County resident Fred Nault spotted the animal crossing a road and took a photograph.
MDNR Wildlife Biologist Adam Bump, who is a member of the Department's specially trained cougar team, noted that a small number of mountain lions are moving back into the state. "I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that we know cougars have established populations in the Dakotas, so we're starting to see a lot of dispersal and for whatever reason they're heading east."
Mountain lions are native to Michigan, but disappeared from the state when the last confirmed lion was killed near the town of Newberry in 1906.
Since 2008, the MDNR has verified eight separate sets of cougar tracks and seven separate photographs in the Upper Peninsula, but none in the lower Peninsula.
And according to Bump, "This is the first confirmation in 2012, and the first verified photo of a cougar taken in person and not by a remote camera.
So far, there is no record of a female lion in Michigan. All lions that have wandered into the state have been young, dispersing males. Many biologists point out a male is not likely to establish a territory if no females are present, and therefore these males will probably keep moving.
While these confirmed sightings prove lions (males at least) are capable of traveling hundreds and even thousands of miles to reach their historic ranges, true recovery will ultimately depend on the protection laws our society puts in place for the species.