March 26 03:21 PM
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Author should stick to fish, not cougars

Dear Woods-N-Water News;

Ron St. Germain's basic message in "Cougar Talk Back in the News," (August issue of WNW News) was that cougars do not exist-never mind who, where, or how often anyone sees one of the big cats, takes its photograph, or finds cougar tracks, scat, or other evidence. According to the article, if it is not dead and in the hand it doesn't exist, and only the DNR has the wisdom and right to look at evidence of the cougar-a state listed endangered species.

Mr. St. Germain tells Woods-N-Water News readers to ask any DNR patrol officer about cougar sightings. In his words, "It wasn't a cougar. In fact, it never has been a cougar." Asking the DNR is not a bad idea, although many seem reluctant to share information that might put them on the "wrong side" of related debates. Actually, an impressive number of DNR conservation officers, wildlife biologists, and foresters have reported seeing cougars themselves in Michigan. Readers might indeed want to ask retired or current DNR employees such as former assistant chief of the Law Enforcement Division, Wayne Kangas (now Sheriff of Clinton County), retired forester Mike Zuidema of Escanaba, or maybe former DNR deputy director Frank Opolka about their cougar sightings. Or if they want to stick to physical evidence of cougars encountered by DNR officials, they could ask about tracks recently examined by the DNR's "cougar evidence team." In a three-month span this year, the DNR confirmed tracks in or very near two of eight study areas of the Michigan Wildlife Conservancy, which collected scat in 2001-2003 that Central Michigan University confirmed as cougar by DNA analyses. The evidence of cougars in Michigan is there.

Readers of Woods-N-Water News can view cougar evidence, a white paper that documents decades of misinformation from wildlife officials about the status of the animal, an ABC News investigative report on the same topic, and DNR confirmation of a track on the Wildlife Conservancy's website:

Perhaps most troubling is Mr. St. Germain's reliance on negative evidence-that is, the absence of well-documented cougar carcasses in Michigan since 1906. It's a good thing wildlife officials in North Dakota didn't continue to follow that logic, they would not be aware of that state's cougar population. Although never having a road-killed cougar, North Dakota opened a brief, experimental hunting season a few years ago and several animals, including some of different sexes and ages were taken in just the first few days.

The conclusion that the only great gray owls, the only wolverine, and the only wolf in the Lower Peninsula were found-and therefore there must be no cougars-is silly. We don't know if the documented specimens were/are the only ones of those species and, by the way, those animals were all discovered by citizens, not DNR employees.

The DNR has recently changed its tune, admitting there are cougars in Michigan. Ron St. Germain just keeps blowing the same old horn. The fog surrounding Michigan's long debate over cougars is starting to lift. As he pleaded for at the start of his article: May he fish in peace, please!

Dennis Fijalkowski, Director Mich. Wildlife Conservancy
August 27, 2008

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