Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resources said DNA evidence indicates that a big cat seen near Milton, Wis., is a wild cougar from North America. Researchers believe the cougar may have migrated from a population of the cats near the Black Hills of South Dakota, The Associated Press reports.
The appearance of the wild cougar is the first in a century, DNR researchers said. The team, led by geneticist Michael Schwartz, reported that the DNA matched that of cats from North America. Had the DNA matched that of South American cougars, researchers would have concluded that the big cat was a formerly captive animal that had managed to escape.
The DNA was taken from blood and urine samples. Pawprints, found near where the cat was sighted in the Rock County town of Milton, indicate that the cougar is a young male weighing about 120 pounds.
Wild cougars were last seen in Wisconsin in the early 1900s, according to DNR records. Adrian Wydeven, a DNR mammal ecologist, said the wild cougar population in Wisconsin could be on the rebound, just as the wolf population was in the 1970s.