This debate is ongoing in our area. If you want to know how a hunter feels about the furry subject, ask. Usually they will roll their eyes, or their eyes will get so big, you'll know. They've been one of the lucky ones to spot them in our dense forest.
I had this discussion with a wildlife biologist the other day. Her district is in the upper North/Northeast region of Minnesota. Although, she has not seen any cats personally, she doesn't deny it, but a bit skeptical (I could tell).
So, being that these big cats are not always seen, what to look for? A large male may lay down a track as wide as 5 inches. Tracks of adult females are 3.5 inches wide or less. Mature males skulls are larger and more round than that of females, with ears set lower on the head. 16 4/16 is the skull measurement of the world-record cougar taken in 1979 according to Boone & Crockett Club. 88 number of confirmed cougar attacks on humans in North America as of 2004, from 1890-1990 is only 53. But, the largest reported cougar killed, weighed in at 276. I doubt that anyone would want to run into that wild cat in the North-woods. My advice...always carry backup! ;)