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Are There Wild Cats in Michigan? Popular Breeds (With Pictures)

Hallie Roddy

By Hallie Roddy

female cougar

Most Michigan residents know that they don’t have to worry too much about wild animal attacks while walking out in the woods. You might spot the occasional black bear or coyote, but wild cats aren’t as easy to spot. While you might not see them very often, experts suggest that there are currently two possible wild cat species living in Michigan.

Wild cats aren’t as common in the southern parts of the state. You’re more likely to see these cats in the upper peninsula. However, there are some that reside in the lower peninsula as well. The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) doesn’t rely on reported sightings of cats. Instead, they focus on evidence like droppings, carcasses, tracks, and photos.

What Types of Wild Cats Live in Michigan?

While there aren’t many wild cats in Michigan, there are two confirmed species that the DNR has found evidence for. There is potential for a third wild cat species residing there, but it hasn’t been confirmed.

1. Canada Lynx

canadian lynx walking in snow
Image Credit: Felineus, Shuttrstock

There is some evidence proving that the Canada Lynx might be found in Michigan. However, they might just be using the State as a passage as they travel. Sightings of these wild cats have been rare over the past 40 years—Michigan State University reported that there were only three sightings since 2003. A local news site also reported that the DNR captured a lynx in 2019.

2. Bobcat

bobcat in the forest
Image Credit: Pixabay

Bobcats can be found throughout the entire United States. While most sightings have happened in the northern parts of the state, sightings are increasing in the southern half of the lower peninsula as well. Their populations in Michigan are stable enough to allow hunting and trapping in certain areas. Bobcats have been documented in every single county in Michigan.

3. Cougars

cougar lying
Image Credit: Piqsels

It may come as a surprise to learn that cougars were originally native to Michigan. Unfortunately, they were completed wiped out in Michigan in the early 1900s. The last known wild cougar in the state of Michigan was in 1906 near Newberry in the Upper Peninsula.

The DNR reports that they have been several confirmed cougar sightings in recent years, although they are extremely rare, with minimal evidence to support that they are still here.

Differences Between Wild Cats and Domestic Cats

While Bobcats and Lynx are smaller compared to other wild cats, they are still easy to tell apart from domestic cats. Cougars are the easiest to identify. They have bodies that are 5 to 6 feet long and a tail that is 2½ to 3½ feet long. Adult cougars weigh 75 to 180 pounds and have a yellowish to red-brown coloration.

Lynx and bobcats are similar in size. Their bodies are roughly 3½ feet long, and they can weigh between 10 and 40 pounds. Their colorations can be similar to cougars but with black coloring and patterning on their bodies and ears.

Canadian Lynx standing on rock
Image Credit: Reimar, Shutterstock

Protecting Pets from Local Wildlife

You must remember that wild cats are exactly that—wild. While most of these animals won’t venture into your yard, nature can force them to look for food in unusual places. It is important to keep your pets protected from all the wildlife surrounding your home. Big cats aren’t the only problem. Foxes, coyotes, and even raccoons can be hazardous to your pets. Here are some tips for keeping them safe:

  • Don’t let your pets go outside at night. Take a flashlight with you to help deter any wild animals roaming around.
  • Don’t leave any pet food or water bowls outside that might attract local wildlife.
  • Keep your pets up to date on all vaccinations.
  • Keep your dogs on a leash while out hiking.
  • Steer dogs clear of bushes, woodpiles, and heavy brush that wild animals might be hiding in.
cat looking outside the window
Image Credit: maigrey42, Pixabay


While there aren’t many wild cats in Michigan, there are a couple that reside here and could be a danger to your pets if you’re not careful. Cats tend to be solitary animals that stay hidden, so you likely won’t see them before they see you. If you’re unsure, contact the Department of Natural resources and ask them about the wild animals living in your area.

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Featured Image Credit: Geoffrey Kuchera, Shutterstock

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