Michigan Cougars Headed for New Home In Oregon Thanks to TWS
Cougars typically inhabit a variety of regions throughout the Americas, from lowland swamps and grasslands to forests and mountains, often occupying territories up to 100 square miles. However, in January 2004, Jeff Robinette, a Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) officer discovered two cougars, each living in a 10′ x 10′ x 8′ cage within a pole barn owned by a Jones, MI man.
The private owner purchased the cougars as cubs at an out-of-state auction in 1996, but does not recall the state or who he bought the animals from. Nada, a 100-pound female, and DJ, a 170- to 180- pound male have had no access to the outdoors in seven years.
Michigan passed the Large Carnivore Act of 2000, requiring any private owner to obtain a permit to maintain ownership of animals such as the cougars. The private owner failed to apply for the permit putting him in violation of the Act, considered a misdemeanor in Michigan. In order to avoid prosecution and fines, the private owner cooperated with Michigan authorities to relocate the cougars.
Patrick Fetherston, Director of Cass County Animal Control found The Wildcat Sanctuary while performing a search on the internet to find a home for the cougars. Upon receiving a call from Fetherston, TWS Executive Director Tammy Quist, took on the challenge to find a permanent home where the cougars would finally have proper care and more natural surroundings.
Quist called her contacts around the country and successfully located a permanent home for Nada and DJ at Wildcat Haven in Sherwood, Oregon. Quist also arranged transportation and veterinary care for the cougars.
Tammy Quist and her boyfriend, Scott, celebrated their Valentine’s Day evening in the TWS transport van during a nine-hour drive to Michigan, where they met Fetherston, Robinette and a local veterinarian to remove DJ and Nada from their dark, small pens and begin them on their journey west. The first stop for DJ and Nada was back in Minnesota where they received checkups and underwent spaying and neutering operations performed by Dr. John Baillie and Cedar Pet Clinic.
Upon receiving a clean bill of health from the Cedar Pet Clinic staff, DJ and Nada set out, once again, on the final leg of their journey, this time accompanied by TWS volunteers Kelly and Sonja.
With the van loaded and the sun beginning to set, the four headed west, hoping Mother Nature would provide good driving conditions for the 1800-mile journey to DJ and Nada’s new home in Oregon, where brand new habitats were being constructed for the two. The three-day, two-night trip across the plains of North Dakota, the snow-covered mountains of Montana and Idaho, Washington, and Oregon was exhausting but well worth the effort. Cheryl Tuller of Wildcat Haven, met the weary travelers just outside Portland, OR to lead them the final few miles up a tree-covered mountain to the beautiful, secluded sanctuary DJ and Nada would call home.
Wildcat Haven operators and volunteers were putting the finishing touches on a 32′ x 64′ habitat which TWS donated the fundng for. Following brief introductions, TWS volunteers worked with Wildcat Haven staff and volunteers to unload their precious cargo and release both DJ and Nada into their new habitats. DJ took a brief tour of his new surroundings as Kelly and Sonja celebrated with a hug and a few tears as both whispered, “He’s home!” As DJ took refuge in his new den, the group immediately set out to release Nada into her neighboring habitat.
Both DJ and Nada spent a good portion of their first afternoon at Wildcat Haven inside their spacious new dens resting from their long journey. As the sun began to set and dusk set in on the mountainside, both DJ and Nada emerged, confident that the cover of darkness would provide the best opportunity to get acquainted to their new home where they now have ample space to roam and perches to climb on. The cougars have natural grass beneath their feet where they can take a catnap in the sun and experience the wonders of nature for the first time.
TWS’ Kelly and Sonja spent the remainder of the day at Wildcat Haven hosted by Cheryl and husband Mike, who refused to let Kelly or Sonja do any work, not even clean out their own van. Cheryl spent the afternoon giving Kelly and Sonja a complete tour of the sanctuary, introducing them to all the other residents, while Mike performed minor maintenance and cleaned out the transport van, making sure it was ready for the return trip back to Minnesota. The next morning, as Kelly and Sonja were heading into the mountains outside Coeur d’Alene, ID, Cheryl called Sonja’s cell phone to report both DJ and Nada spent the morning outside, in the sun, obviously becoming comfortable in their new home. Knowing DJ and Nada would be happy in their new home made completing 3600+-mile round trip much easier.
Nada and DJ have also made the headlines. Click the links to read the stories.