Likely cougar caught on camera in southern Minnesota
A suspected cougar, or mountain lion, has been photographed in southern Minnesota.
About 1 a.m. Sept. 7, the large cat strode past a trail camera in Jackson County, near the Des Moines River close to the Iowa border, according an image captured on an automated trail camera.
Officials with the Department of Natural Resources investigated the possible sighting and are treating it as most likely a bona fide sighting, as opposed to the numerous mistaken sightings and occasional hoaxes reported each year, said Randy Markl, the DNR’s area wildlife manager for the part of the state.
“I don’t think we’ve found any reason to dispute that it is a mountain lion in the photo,” he said. While no scat, prints, fur or other biological confirmation could be found, the scale of the animal in the picture, as well as its markings and features, all ring true for a mountain lion, not a bobcat or housecat. “We have no reason to believe the image is Photoshopped or anything like that.”
While they once roamed the landscape of Minnesota, mountain lions haven’t had a self-sustaining population in the state since European settlement. However, the large predators are confirmed to occasionally wander through the state as solitary males make impressive journeys, called “dispersals,” across the continent. DNA testing has confirmed the animals often from emanate from the Black Hills in South Dakota, the nearest reproducing population to Minnesota.
This wouldn’t be the first time a mountain lion has wandered through Jackson County. In 2011, a man shot and killed one that was on private property near horses. However, cougars are protected in Minnesota, and killing one is only justified if one is facing imminent harm. He pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor and was ordered to pay a $1,000 fine and an additional $1,000 in restitution to the state.