Flamingos in Wisconsin? We've seen some other unusual animals, too

A small flamboyance of flamingos found their way to Lake Michigan Friday to the delight of residents and bird lovers across the Milwaukee area.

But it wasn't the first time (and likely won't be the last) that uncommon animals have been spotted by locals — even though one notorious sighting remains unconfirmed and passionately debated.

Here's a list of some other unusual animal sightings in and around Milwaukee.

A cougar was recorded jumping up onto a window of a Brookfield home

A cougar in 2018 left paw marks on a window at Dan and Bridget Guerndt's home in Brookfield. A surveillance camera outside the home captured the incident at the time.

The cougar — or at least a cougar — had reportedly been seen multiple times in the area around the time of its appearance in Waukesha County. No one was injured in the incident.

A coyote sits at the front entrance of a Shorewood home.
A coyote sits at the front entrance of a Shorewood home.

Shorewood residents reported multiple sightings of 'Carl' the coyote

Urban coyotes developed a devoted following in Shorewood in 2020 when residents affectionately dubbed the wild canines wandering their neighborhood "Carl the coyote."

"Carl" was seen and photographed multiple times by several residents who often shared their sightings on social media. Although less common in Milwaukee, urban coyotes are comfortable living in cities where an abundance of their prey can be found as well as areas with green spaces to inhabit, so they are more frequently spotted in nearby suburbs. Nearly 1200 coyote sightings have been recorded in Milwaukee County since 2015, according to the Milwaukee County Coyote Watch Page.

A bull elk showed up on a trail cam near Holy Hill

In October 2020, an elementary physical education teacher recorded a bull elk wandering on a trail near Holy Hill Basilica on a trail camera he had placed on private property in Hubertus.

It was likely the first wild member of its species to walk freely in the region for more than 150 years. Elk were native to Wisconsin but wiped out in the 1800s due to unregulated hunting and habitat loss, according to the Wisconsin DNR.

A reintroduction project brought elk back to the Badger State in 1995. A second herd was established in Jackson County in 2015.

A single Mandarin duck drew a lot of attention Sunday at South Shore Yacht Club.
A single Mandarin duck drew a lot of attention Sunday at South Shore Yacht Club.

A Mandarin duck drew birders to the South Shore Yacht Club

Another unusual avian sighting cropped up in late 2022. A Mandarin duck spent some time around the South Shore Yacht Club in Milwaukee, and drew a steady crowd of birders.

The duck — native to eastern Asia, near China, Japan and the Koreas — was believed to be wild and likely escaped somewhere in the state from a zoo or private collection, or is a descendant of one that escaped, the DNR told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel at the time.

A female flame-colored tanager perches on a branch while feeding April 30 in Sheridan Park in Cudahy. The sighting of the species, which is typically found in Mexico and Central America and has been recorded in just two other states, is the first in Wisconsin.
A female flame-colored tanager perches on a branch while feeding April 30 in Sheridan Park in Cudahy. The sighting of the species, which is typically found in Mexico and Central America and has been recorded in just two other states, is the first in Wisconsin.

A flame-colored tanager was spotted in Wisconsin for the first time ever in 2023

To the delight of birders, a flame-colored tanager was sighted in late April 2023 in Sheridan Park in Milwaukee. It marked the first time the tropical species has been recorded in Wisconsin.

The bird, native to Mexico and Central America, has been spotted in only two other states, Arizona and Texas, according to eBird, a bird recording system operated by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

More: Bird not seen in Wisconsin for 178 years spotted in Green Bay nature area

There definitely maybe might have been a lion in Milwaukee

Still debated among locals today, the legend of the Milwaukee lion grew into a national story in 2015 after multiple sightings of the creature were reported over the course of 10 days or so.

At one point a DNR official reported seeing it in a ravine, but subsequent searches turned up no trace of the lion. The only "progress" in the case was the accidental shooting of bulldog named Homie who was mistaken for the lion. Homie survived the ordeal and the Milwaukee lion morphed into an urban myth.

The only surviving evidence of the animal, whatever it was, is grainy cellphone video. The buzz around the Milwaukee lion grew to such proportions it inspired a slightly patronizing New York Times article and other national news coverage.

Who knows? Maybe we'll see it again someday. Then again, maybe we won't.

This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Rare, uncommon animals seen in Milwaukee and Wisconsin