WAUKESHA COUNTY -- A large cat has made yet another appearance in southeastern Wisconsin. Some experts now believe there may be more than one feline in the area.
In the last several weeks, a cougar has been popping up on the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources' (DNR) radar.
Things went quiet for a while and it was believed the animal may have left the area -- until another cougar sighting was verified in Waukesha County.
Photos taken from a trail camera in Menomonee Falls captured a cougar early Friday morning, Feb. 23.
"I am a little bit surprised. I was really expecting this animal to move on," said Dianne Robinson, DNR wildlife biologist.
This comes after cougar sightings in Brookfield, and in Washington and Fond du Lac Counties.
David Fechter from Shalom Wildlife Sanctuary has a cougar of his own. He said he agrees with the DNR's assessment that the cat spotted in Waukesha County about one week ago was a young male, but said he now thinks there may be more than one cougar.
"This one seems a lot bigger. Bigger body frame, bigger head," said Fechter. It's abdomen area was sunken in, so you could see that it had not eaten in a while."
"I would say that's extremely unlikely," said Robinson, who maintains that there's only one cougar on the move.
Meanwhile, the School District of Menomonee Falls sent a letter to parents Wednesday, Feb. 28 after the cougar sighting in the Falls. A spokeswoman for the School District of Menomonee Falls said in the letter: “The safety of our students and staff is our top priority.”
To that end, they are taking steps, including notifying parents of protocols that have been shared with school officials in regard to recess and other outdoor activities:
- Supervisors during outdoor activities/recess should be aware of their surroundings while outside with the students.
- If a large animal is spotted, students will be immediately moved indoors and the office will be notified.
- All outside doors will remain closed and the authorities will be notified.
- Remaining outdoor activities/recess will remain indoors until further review by authorities.
The letter to parents goes on to say:
“According to the Wisconsin DNR, human interaction with a cougar is extremely rare. If a cougar approaches and does not immediately flee, stand tall, wave your arms, throw stones or other objects and yell. Don’t run, but slowly back away from the site, keeping an eye on the cougar. Contact your local police department if you do spot the animal.”
Experts advise that while cougars rarely interact with humans, it's important to be aware of your surroundings.
"As a person who owns cougar, it's the number one animal in my zoo that I fear," said Fechter. "Sometimes people, they see a cougar and they don't realize that this is a mountain lion."
Fechter said there is at least one benefit to the large cats looking for territory in Wisconsin.
"A large predator is a sign of a healthy environment. There's plenty of food for that animal. There's areas where it can move through to get where it wants to go," said Fechter.
If you spot a cougar, DNR officials are encouraging you not to approach it. Take yourselves and your pets indoors and then call law enforcement officials. You should also fill out the DNR's Large Mammal Observation Form HERE.