Berrien 1st to issue cougar alert

Published 10:51 am Wednesday, December 21, 2005

By Staff
BATH - Berrien County has become 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.
In early December, the Michigan Wildlife Conservancy (MWC) helped the Berrien County Sheriff's Department and Animal Control Office in investigating an attack on a Watervliet horse by a cougar that occurred on the night of Nov. 26.
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 Dec. 9 and examined the animal at the Berrien County Maintenance Building with assistance from Dr. Mark Johnson, 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 Aug. 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 a local police sergeant both saw a cougar on separate occasions within two miles of the scene of the attack.
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.
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.