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DNR looks into possible cougar attack

Becky Vargo • Jul 21, 2015 at 1:34 PM

Brett Tompkins found the seven-point buck about a week ago when he was showing his cousins where to hunt on family-owned land off Buchanan Street, east of 156th Avenue in Grand Haven Township. Based on drag marks through the woods, Tompkins said it appears the deer had been moved 80-100 feet from where it was killed.

Tompkins said he is familiar with coyote kills.

“They don’t drag it that far,” he said.

Tompkins said the deer’s missing front legs and its bone breakage also adds to his suspicions that a larger animal killed the deer.

“What was different was how the rib cage was ripped open,” he said. “You don’t see that with a coyote.”

Tompkin’s cousin, Dan Sudekum of Livonia, said he’s watched documentaries on cougars.

“Supposedly, they go for the heart and liver – for protein and fluids,” Sudekum said.

Tufts of hair and some unknown animal scat (feces) covered the ground where Tompkins believes the deer was killed.

He pointed out some freshly broken branches on a nearby tree.

“I wonder if he jumped on the deer from there,” he said.

The Michigan Citizens for Cougar Recognition website reports 22 Ottawa County sightings since January 2000.

Local sightings include:

— A road kill on the south side of westbound I-96 near the M-104 exit. This was reported five years after it occurred.

— An observation by Rita Z. and Glen P. of Grand Haven was noted on May 18, 2005, but no location was listed.

— In May 2007, a cougar was observed in the Spring Lake area.

— On Aug. 13, 2007, a black cougar was reported crossing Cleveland Street near 82nd Avenue in Polkton Township. (However, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources website says, “There is no scientific documentation that a black color phase exists in cougars in North America.”)

— In August 2008, a sighting was reported in Spring Lake Township.

Despite the documentation, DNR wildlife biologist Nick Kalejs said, “Factually, there’s never been a confirmed cougar report or sighting in the Lower Peninsula.” A lot of people use trail cameras, but nobody has turned in a picture of a cougar, he added.

“Hunters with hounds have never treed one," Kalejs said. "And a six-month Sleeping Bear study never found one.”

Kalejs said cougars are very susceptible to being hit by cars on highways, but there have been no road kills reported in Michigan.

“Still, it’s not out of the question,” he said.

Kalejs did not see the deer allegedly killed by a cougar or the kill site in Grand Haven Township in person, but he did see a picture of the deer taken a couple of days after it was found.

“It’s clearly consistent with what I expect to see from coyotes,” the DNR officer said.

Last year, Kalejs investigated a calf kill. It turned out that the 150-pound animal had been dragged by several coyotes.

“When more than one (coyote) is involved, there’s a lot they can do,” he said.

Questions about cougars are addressed on the DNR website: CLICK HERE.

CLICK HERE for the Michigan Citizens for Cougar Recognition website, which breaks down cougar sightings by county..

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