Yooper’ Cougar Confirmed

Weekly news, tips, trivia, fun facts and wild tales from the outdoors

Feb. 23, 2005

‘Yooper’ Cougar Confirmed

Dozens of residents of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (U.P.) claimed to have seen cougars in the wild during the past year, but until last week the state’s game agency said they might be mistaken. Now, armed with new DNA evidence, some “Yoopers” have proof that they weren’t creating an urban myth about Michigan mountain lions. Also this week, you’ll be treated to tales about a dog that was anything but gun-shy, a scientist/angler who created a new fishing line that turns color before breaking, and more.

A Cougar In The Wolverine State

Following many months of reports, rumors, and numerous eyewitness accounts, authorities with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources have clinical proof of the existence of at least one mountain lion in The Wolverine State’s Upper Peninsula.

J.R. Absher

Last week, DNA testing established that a large cat struck by a vehicle in late 2004 was indeed a cougar, but it remains unclear whether Michigan has an established population of long-tailed big cats, a state wildlife official cautioned.

A motorist reported hitting “a large cat” in southern Menominee County on Nov. 2, 2004. The driver turned over hair samples collected from the bumper to biologists at the Michigan Department of Natural Resources field office in Escanaba.

The samples were forwarded to the Wildlife Division’s pathology lab, and then sent to Central Michigan University for analysis, where they were confirmed as originating from a mountain lion.

Eyewitnesses Vindicated

Dozens of U.P. residents claimed to have seen cougars in the wild during the past couple of years, and some have even offered photographic evidence to prove their sightings.

But until last week’s report, the state’s wildlife agency denied any hard evidence suggesting free-roaming cougars in the state, leading some sportsmen and outdoor writers to suggest the DNR was withholding data.

Some individuals and groups, such as the Michigan Wildlife Conservancy, contend there is a viable population of big cats and they record all reported sightings. The DNR’s official contention is that while some citizens may occasionally spot cougars, the animals might be just passing through or could be pets that were released into the wild.

“This is exactly the kind of information we are looking for to gain a better understanding of what animals are present in Michigan and identify potential areas for additional work,” said Ray Rustem, the DNR’s natural heritage unit supervisor. Even so, he said, the test result “still does not confirm the presence of a breeding population in Michigan.”

Next Time, Let Him Retrieve

A Washington state waterfowl hunter will likely have second thoughts the next time he deprives an instinctive hunting companion of his usual goose-retrieving responsibilities.

Michael Boyle had time to reflect on his actions for a couple of days in an East Wenatchee, Washington-area hospital, after the steel shot was successfully removed from his leg.

Boyle, a companion, and his friend’s Labrador retriever were hunting from a boat on the Columbia River when Boyle leaned out to grab a floating goose they had shot. In the excitement of the moment, the dog apparently triggered the 12-gauge shotgun.

When Boyle heard the gun blast, it’s a good guess he knew his goose was cooked.

Scientist Hooked On Fishing

An avid angler and head of a Case Western University research team, grasped how new sensory technology could be used to improve fishing line. Research leader Christoph Weder said that a fishing line that changes color when stressed could allow anglers to know when it’s time to respool with fresh line.

The new polymer-blend material created by the team, now in the proof-of-concept phase, has a primary application as tamper-resistant packaging, which changes color if opened and resealed.

Used in a fishing line application, the polymer changes color under a blacklight when it has been stressed to a near-breakage point.

The team is now working to perfect versions that could change color under visible light, eliminating the need for UV lighting.

Lake Mead Rising

Statistics from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation indicate that the water level of Lake Mead rose almost 10 vertical feet during the months of January and February, though officials caution that it’s still too early to say that a long-standing drought has ended.

January’s 7-1/2-foot increase was the largest monthly gain since 1983, and the third largest since 1966, when the Colorado’s flow into Lake Mead came under control with the opening of Glen Canyon Dam.

Despite Mead’s recent gains, the largest man-made reservoir in North America still finished January down about 3 feet from the same time in 2004.

The six-year drought’s impact is visible as a stark white ring, more than 75 feet above the current level, marking where the water reached as recently as 1998.

Quote Of The Week

“It was that big yeller dog. He was roaring like a mad bull. He wasn’t one-third as big and heavy as the she bear, but when he piled into her from one side, he rolled her clear off her feet. They went down in a wild, roaring tangle of twisting bodies and scrambling feet and slashing fangs.”

-Fred Gipson

“Old Yeller,” 1956

J.R. Absher is a freelance outdoor writer whose articles and columns appear in numerous national publications. Visit his Web sites, The Outdoor Pressroom (www.outdoorpressroom.com and The Outdoor Weblog www.outdoorweblog.com ) to find the latest outdoor news of interest. He offers his unique perspective of the outdoors weekly for sportsmansguide.com. You may contact him at jrabsher@outdoorpressroom.com.

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