EAU CLAIRE – A photograph of a cougar, taken five days ago in Juneau County, has been verified as legitimate by two wildlife biologists with the state Department of Natural Resources.
The photograph, taken at 9:21 p.m. Sunday, clearly shows a young adult cougar moving against a nighttime background of native grasses. The camera was located a bit more than two miles north of Mauston.
More on cougars in Wisconsin: Trail cameras capture cougar activity
Two DNR biologists – Adrian Wydeven and Jon Robaidek – visited the site today, interviewed the landowner, checked other photos in sequence on the camera and checked the background in the photograph against the actual location.
“It’s obviously a cougar,” Wydeven said of the large, tawny cat in the photograph. “It’s good sized, most likely a young adult.”
DNR officials learned of the photograph Friday. The landowner hadn’t checked the camera for several days. A time stamp on the photo establishes the date it was taken.
While it is not possible to determine the gender of the cat using the photograph, Wydeven said it is likely this is a male cougar in search of new territory.
This is the seventh time a trail camera has captured a cougar in Wisconsin, although three of these instances probably involved the same cougar. DNR biologists have confirmed the presence of four individual cougars in Wisconsin during the past three years.
However, Wydeven said that based on times, location and other evidence, it is likely that a minimum of six different cougars have visited Wisconsin since January, 2008, when a cougar observation near Milton was confirmed by tracks and DNA tests of a blood sample.
During the summer of 2010, the DNR investigated several reports of horses and livestock being injured by cougars in Juneau County. State and federal wildlife officials investigated but were unable to find confirming evidence.
Cougars are capable of incredible stealth and have been known to travel large distances through populated areas without being detected.
The four cougars that left DNA evidence in Wisconsin were all identified as young males with genetics that make it likely they originated in the Black Hills of South Dakota. DNR biologists believe all the sightings in Wisconsin are likely due to young male cougars traveling great distances in search of territory and mates.
This past summer, DNA evidence confirmed that a cougar killed in a vehicle crash in Connecticut was the same “St. Croix cougar” that passed through Wisconsin.
There is no evidence of cougars breeding in Wisconsin, Wydeven said.
DNR officials emphasized that citizen observations are critical to cougar monitoring, and they are asking landowners and outdoor enthusiasts to become familiar with the “rare mammal observation form” on the DNR’s website. This and much more can be found by typing “cougar” into the search box on the home page.
The website will be updated early next week with information about this cougar.
Wisconsinoutdoorfun.com is trying to acquire the trail camera photos and will post them as soon as they are received. If you have more information about this or any other cougar, contact Wisconsinoutdoorfun.com site manager Brian Otten at firstname.lastname@example.org.
More news from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.