Oct. 23 (UPI) -- Wildlife officials in Michigan said two recent cougar sightings in the state's Upper Peninsula bring the total sightings for 2019 to five -- and the animals are likely escaped or released pets.
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources said a wildlife camera in northern Delta County recorded a mountain lion sighting Sept. 18, and a camera in southern Marquette County, about 14 miles away, recorded a cougar wandering Oct. 6.
The department said a total five confirmed cougar sightings have been recorded in 2019, and it's unclear whether all of the sightings involve the same animal.
Cougars were once native to Michigan, but the animals were eradicated from the state in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
Officials said the cougars spotted in the Upper Peninsula are likely pets that escaped or were released by their owners. They said there is also a chance the cougars migrated from the nearest known breeding population in the Dakotas -- about 900 miles away.