There have been more cougar sightings across southern Wisconsin this year than in the last five years, according to the Department of Natural Resources.
There were seven verified cougar sightings across Sauk, Richland, Grant and Crawford County in 2022 alone, according to DNR data. Four of those reports came from Richland County alone. Although there has been an increase in sightings, that doesn't necessarily mean there are more cougars in Wisconsin. In fact, Sara Fischer, a Large Carnivore Specialist with the DNR said that Wisconsin doesn't even have a cougar population. Instead, the ones seen here are males typically traveling through the state from South Dakota or Canada.
"They will continue to move around the state and then the areas that the animal was in, those reports stop showing up," Fischer explained (via WKOW-27 News). "That's how we can confirm that it's the same animal or very likely the same animal."
Cougars can weigh up to 160 pounds, which makes them the largest wildcats in North America. As the deer hunting season has recently started, Fischer stressed the importance of being aware of your surroundings. "They are definitely a predator to be aware of," she said. "If it were to make contact with you, it's best to fight as hard as you can. Most of the time, they'll give up eventually."