The Michigan Department of Natural Resources has confirmed two recent cougar sightings in the eastern part of the Upper Peninsula. There have now been 26 cougars spotted within the 11 counties of the Upper Peninsula since 2008.

Originally native to Michigan, cougars were exterminated about 100 years ago. The last known cougar capture was in 1906 near Newberry, Mich. Cougars are considered an endangered species and hunting them is not permitted.

The Detroit Free Press reports that a photo of one of the cougars was taken with a camera phone in late October on private property near Raber Township. The other photo was captured by a trail camera on public land near Garfield Township in early November. Both photos appear to be of young cougars traveling solo. The Michigan DNR has suggested they migrate from the Dakotas and have found no evidence of cougars breeding within the state. Other states are also reporting an uptick in sightings.

“They end up in the U.P. looking for a mate,” says Debbie Munson Badini, deputy information officer for the Michigan DNR office in Marquette, in a story by the Detroit News. “When they can’t find one, they usually move farther east or go back to the Dakotas. We had one cougar that ended up in Connecticut and was hit by a car. DNA testing showed it was the same animal that was in Michigan earlier [that year].”

Photo: Michigan Department of Natural Resources