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P.O. Box 393, Bath, MI 48808
BATH—On December 2, 2005 Berrien County became the first local government unit in Michigan to issue a "Public Safety Announcement," asking county residents to be on the alert for a cougar (mountain lion) and take precautions. A week later, the Michigan Wildlife Conservancy (MWC) helped the Berrien County Sheriff’s Department and Animal control Office in investigating an attack on a horse by a cougar that had occurred on the night of November 26, 2005. A 20-year old, 1,000-pound horse was injured so severely that it was euthanized the following morning by a veterinarian. County officials and Dr. Patrick Rusz, Director of Wildlife Programs of the non-profit MWC, exhumed the horse on December 9 and examined the animal at the Berrien County Maintenance Building with assistance from Dr. Mark Johnsom, the veterinarian who euthanized the animal. They found clear-cut evidence, including distinct claw marks, and tooth punctures, that indicated the horse was attacked by a cougar.
The investigation followed an attack on August 31, 2005 in which a cougar killed a horse in Jackson County’s Parma Township. In that incident, Dr. Rusz and the Jackson County Animal Control Office determined the animal was killed by a bite in the neck at the base of the skull. Other tooth punctures were also readily visible. The Parma Township Supervisor and local police sergeant both saw a cougar on separate occasions within two miles of the scene of the attack.
"In both horse attack incidents County officials launched the investigation," said Dennis Fijalkowski, Executive Director of the Wildlife Conservancy. "Their prompt and thorough efforts helped document the presence of a cougar, an endangered species in Michigan, as they addressed local safety concerns."
In contrast, thorough investigations were not conducted to determine the predators that killed a steer and a colt in Allegan County in summer of 2005, and killed dogs and livestock elsewhere in Michigan this past year. "It is unfortunate there has been no effective state-led response when horses and other large animals are attacked," added Fijalkowski. "Opportunities have been missed to gather information about cougars and other large predators that is critically needed by police and animal control officers, livestock owners, and the general public."
The Michigan Wildlife Conservancy has been studying cougars in Michigan for nearly eight years and has documented the presence of the large cats in more than a dozen counties in both the Upper and Lower Peninsulas through DNA analyses of droppings (scats), and photographs of the animals and their tracks.
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