Cougar sightings in Michigan on the rise

6:53 PM, Dec 29, 2011   |    comments
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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WZZM) -- Last night we told you about Connie Venroy a woman who claims she saw a cougar in her back yard.

A cougar is the fourth largest cat in the feline family. It is between 24 and 35 inches tall at the shoulder, and a little less than eight feet long. A male cougar can weigh up to 220-pounds.

Your average house cat is about nine to ten-inches high, eighteen-inches in length, and averages about 11-pounds.

Cougars sightings are on the rise in Michigan.

Dan Malone, Animal Manager at John Ball Zoo says, "There's been more sightings of cougars-- reputable sightings in Michigan."

But Malone says don't be too worried-- "Cougar attacks on people are very rare. In last 100 years there have been 100 attacks of people and that's in North America. Most are in California or Canada. I'm not aware of any in Michigan in the last 100 years."

Cougars were originally native to Michigan, but were over hunted in the state and killed off. But over time the large cats are returning, migrating from western states.

Malone says, "In some of the states where there are good cougar populations there are 4,000 to 6,000 animals. We're just estimating, but we have well under 100."

In a rare chance that you run into a cougar-- resist your instinct to run.

Malone says, "You don't want to run away or play dead. You want to look as big as you can, shout, and back it down. "

Running activates the cat's instinct to chase it's prey. Still, your likelihood of getting hurt by a cat are slim.

By Sarah Barwacz

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