With stories of possible sightings scattered across the east, officials in Michigan made it official last week after investigating a good lead on a sighting in the Lower Peninsula.

A resident snapped a decent picture of what appears to be a mountain lion as the large cat crossed the road ahead of his vehicle.  Snapping the image in Bath Township, the individual promptly reported the sighting along with photographic evidence to Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

After receiving the image, biologist Chad Fedewa along with colleagues from the DNR’s Cougar Team reviewed it and visited the location in which it was taken.

“Even with this verification, questions remain, especially regarding the origins of the animal,” said Kevin Swanson, DNR wildlife specialist and member of the agency’s Cougar Team. “There is no way for us to know if this animal is a dispersing transient from a western state, like cougars that have been genetically tested from the Upper Peninsula, or if this cat was released locally.”

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Original Image.

The large cats, which were extirpated from Michigan back towards the turn of the century, remain under state protection through the Endangered Species Act.  Since 2008, there have been a reported 36 total cougar sightings in the Upper Peninsula but none in the Lower Peninsula.

DNR officials encourage those with photographic evidence of sightings to report it along with any physical evidence of cougars in the area.  They also are reminding residents to give cougars the space and respect they deserve and advise against interfering in any way with the animals.