DNR Investigating Cougar Tracks
ELKHORN - The state Department of Natural Resources is investigating whether a cougar is roaming Walworth County and whether it's the same one spotted near Milton in January.
The DNR verified tracks found March 7 seven miles northeast of Elkhorn were from a cougar after looking at photos taken at the scene. A hair sample was collected for genetic analysis.
The tracks were found about 23 miles east-southeast of a cougar sighting east of Milton in Rock County in January.
"It is possible these (tracks) are the same cougar's, although tracks measured at the Elkhorn site seemed somewhat larger," Adrian Wydeven, a DNR mammal ecologist, said in a news release.
Track sizes can differ based on snow conditions or whether the front or hind feet made them, he said.
"It is hoped that genetic testing will be able to determine the relationships of these cougars to each other," Wydeven said.
According to the DNR, the last known wild cougars in Wisconsin disappeared in the early 20th century.
Although there have been reports of cougars around the state since then, none have been documented as wild cats since the early 1900s.
There have been several instances of captive cougars escaping into the wild before recapture or disappearance. Cougars have been documented in Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri and Illinois.
Cougars are listed as protected wild animals in Wisconsin, which means a permit would be required from the DNR before someone could kill the animal.
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)