According to some “experts” there are possibly two wild cat species in Michigan: the Canada lynx and bobcat. The lynx is ‘possible extant’. However, sightings contradict this and it may be reasonable to assume that there are certainly two and possibly three wild cat species in Michigan at the date of this post: bobcat, puma and Canada lynx.
As you can tell, there are two ways to list the wild cat species in Michigan. The first is to rely on the organisation charged with knowing which wild cat species are meant to be in the US state of Michigan. That organisation is the IUCN Red List (“Red List”). They have up-to-date information on the distribution of an huge number of wild species. You can add the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (“DNR”) to the Red List. Of these I trust the latter over the former.
The second way is to get evidence from the residents of Michigan and ask them whether they have seen the three wild cat species which are meant to live in this state. On the ground evidence may well clash with theoretical assessments. However, sightings by inexperienced people are often unreliable.
As mentioned, there are three wild cat species that could or should be in Michigan: the Canada lynx, the bobcat and the puma (mountain lion or cougar).
The Red List states that the Canada lynx might be found in Michigan. They state that the Canada lynx is possibly extant (living) ‘passage’, which I assume means passing through the state. Lynx are found in Minnesota. However, there have been sightings by residents and more in Michigan. For example, on 19 March 2019 the news website WILX 10 reported that the DNR had captured a Canada lynx. And there was another confirmed sighting nearby. There have been rare sightings over the last 40 years. According to Michigan State University there have been three sightings in the state since 2003.
The Red List states that the bobcat can be found throughout the USA including, of course, Michigan. And I am sure this is confirmed through sightings on the ground. It is certain that the bobcat is in Michigan.
The Red List and DNR state that the puma is not found in Michigan as it is too far east. The distribution of the puma is now far over to the west of America. The range of this iconic cat is being gradually confined to a smaller area in the eastern one third of America and all the way south through Mexico, Central and South America.
However, at 2012 there is a report of increased sightings of the puma on the website mybaycity.com. The conclusion is that residents of Michigan say that pumas exist in their state but as mentioned Michigan DNR and the Red List say they don’t.
You decide! My gut feeling is that the puma is extinct in Michigan as nearly all sightings are inaccurate and are in fact domestic cats. My conclusion to the question “What wild cat species are in Michigan?” is the bobcat and the Canada lynx – 2 wild cat species.
P.S. It is just possible that the odd individual puma has wandered into the state from the West while looking for a home range but this is highly unlikely.