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DNR says cougar in Brookfield unlikely

Other sightings in area have been disproved

Feb. 15, 2013

State officials say a reported cougar sighting in Brookfield, like a recent reported sighting in Franklin, likely isn't accurate. Tracks found in Franklin this fall were determined to belong to a large dog, and it's likely the cougar in the recent sighting in Brookfield is a coyote, dog or other large mammal.

Ronald Woolsey of Brookfield can't quite swallow that explanation. He told the Department of Natural Resources that a cougar ran in front of his car as he was driving east on Capitol Drive, three blocks east of Calhoun Road, at 9:40 p.m. Jan. 16.

"I saw it for about 100 feet," Woolsey said. "It ran across the street and disappeared into some of the shrubs on the side of the road."

Woolsey said he is sure it was a cougar as he's seen them in the wild in other states.

"I am positive it was a cougar, without a doubt," Woolsey said.

Woolsey was asked to fill out a large mammal observation report on the DNR's website, which is standard procedure when the DNR receives such reports.

He completed the form Jan. 18 and described the cougar as being three-fourths the size of an adult cougar, 120 pounds, tawny in color, and having a tail as long as its body.

Identification difficulties

DNR Wildlife Biologist Tom Isaac said snowfall after the sighting made it difficult to identify the animal, and there are no plans to look for the alleged cougar.

"There was no way to verify Mr. Woolsey's observation through tracks or other physical evidence since it had snowed heavily between the time of the sighting and when we found out about it," Isaac said. "There are no other plans to investigate unless we receive other reports of sightings."

Isaac also said that Woolsey's description of what he saw didn't match up with other information the state has received about cougars.

"He said it was a three-quarter-sized cougar," Isaac said. "Any cougars we have coming into the state should be full-grown cougars. However, it's not impossible that it could have been a cougar. This is a report that we couldn't quite verify."

Confirmed sightings in Wisconsin

Cougars are identified through fresh tracks, hair, blood, photos or trail cameras.

The DNR has confirmed several cougar sightings in Wisconsin during the past year, the most recent of an adult male in Sawyer County, 350 miles northwest of Waukesha County, Jan. 23.

In 2012, sightings were confirmed in Iowa, Jackson and Monroe counties, all in western Wisconsin.

There were several reports of sightings in the Franklin and Hales Corners areas in the second half of 2012.

"We've seen an increase in the number of reported cougar sightings, but have yet to positively identify any in this area," Tim Lizotte, wildlife management supervisor for the DNR said. "After investigating, we've determined that reported sightings are actually deer, coyote, and even house cats."

According to the DNR website, cougars are distinctive with their long, black-tipped tail and can weigh between 80 and 160 pounds. In adults, the coat is tawny but can vary from reddish-yellow to gray. The belly, underside, inside legs and chin are white or cream and the back of the ears are solid black or gray.

Lizotte said sightings should be reported as soon as possible to the DNR and to local authorities so an investigation can be started immediately.

"We're interested in receiving tips with evidence," Lizotte said. "Photos, blood, scat and hair are all things we can use to identify a cougar."

The DNR said cougar sightings, although rare, are possible, but that the animals are just passing through the state.

"There's sufficient food in the state for cougars, like deer, but not habitat," Lizotte said. "The ones we've documented don't stay long and are mostly looking for a mate."

More information

The DNR customer service line is available seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., at (888) 936-7463.

More information on cougars in Wisconsin, including the large mammal observation report and photos of cougars seen in the state, can be found online at dnr.wi.gov/topic/wildlifehabitat/cougar.html.

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