DNR reviews Ogdensburg photo
By Ben Rodgers
An Ogdensburg woman saw an apex predator roaming her back yard.
“I didn’t know what it was,” said the woman who took the picture around 9:15 p.m. on Sept. 7. She asked that her name be withheld.
“I sent the picture to my boyfriend, as he was on his way back from bear hunting, and he said ‘It’s probably a bobcat.’ And then I got another message that said ‘Just zoomed in on the pic… Do not go outside! Its tail is touching the ground. It’s not a bobcat!’” she said.
Judging from the picture it appears to be part of the feline family, but this critter is better known as a mountain lion, puma or cougar.
“I wouldn’t say it’s common but it’s becoming routine,” said Jake Fries, wildlife biologist with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources out of Hartman Creek State Park. “There’s confirmed sightings every year or every other year, depending on the year.”
The DNR tracks confirmed sightings on its website. Those sightings are from 2009 to 2015 and go as far north as Bayfield County and as far south as Iowa County.
Fries said the department will follow up to confirm the legitimacy of this photo, as sightings are rare in this part of the state.
But to him it appears this is a dispersing male, with genetics similar to cougars in the Black Hills of South Dakota.
“In Wisconsin the bit of evidence that we’ve been able to collect is that they’re not really establishing home ranges, just traveling through, covering hundreds of miles, traveling through the state to destinations unknown,” Fries said.
Mountain lions have home ranges that cover hundreds of miles. Like any good home they are searching for food and companionship.
“Generally speaking they’re adolescent males that are dissipating from the native areas and searching for their own territory, in Wisconsin,” Fries said. “Generally a territory, for any animal, they got to have food, space, and a partner to breed with.
“I think what’s happening in Wisconsin, is given the fact that most of these animals we’ve been able to confirm are young males, is they are moving and looking for a habitat with young females, which they’re not finding here so they continue to move,” he said.
Food should be plentiful in the area as mountain lions are near the top of the food chain and would be able to feed on anything from turkeys up to white tailed deer, Fries said.
His advice if anyone else comes across a big cat like this in their backyard:
“With any wild animal, observe it from a distance,” he said.