A Lakehead University professor is sending a message to the province about cougars after the recent sightings of a big cat in Thunder Bay.

Harvey Lemelin, the research chair in parks and protected areas, said there are stories of cougar sightings in the region, dating back 40 years.

Lemelin said it's time for the Ministry of Natural Resources to study the animals and create a management plan.

"I think we need to address these issues," he said. "Instead of being reactive, we need to be proactive. We know that cougars are here, they've been here for quite a while. And it makes no sense to … deny their existence."

The Minister of Natural Resources said the MNR knows there are cougars in the province.

But Michael Gravelle noted there hasn't been any official confirmed sighting of a wild cougar in Ontario since 1884.