DNR: Cougar evidence is inconclusive

Published 10:30 am Tuesday, May 13, 2014

A big cat was sighted in northwest Mower County and Blooming Prairie late last week, but the Minnesota Department of Natural Resource isn’t sure it was a cougar.

Mower County Sheriff Terese Amazi received a report of a resident sighting a cougar and was given photos of a “big cat.”



However, Jeanine Vorland, an area DNR wildlife supervisor, called the photos “highly inconclusive.” The pictures show a cat off in the distance, but Vorland said the image is blurry, the color isn’t consistent with a cougar and there’s nothing to use for scale to judge size.

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“We can’t confirm anything based on the photos,” said Vorland, who oversees Mower, Rice, Steele, Dodge, Freeborn and Waseca counties.

Along with the initial report in northwest Mower County, Vorland heard additional reports from the Blooming Prairie area, but she’s received no concrete evidence.

Vorland said the animal in the image seemed small for a cougar. Though the evidence is inconclusive, Vorland is remaining neutral, and said she doesn’t want to dismiss sightings.

Cougars — also called mountain lions or pumas — range from about 70 to 100 pounds — about the size of a large Labrador. Vorland said people commonly mistake Labradors for cougars, but a tell-tale sign is the tail, as cougars’ tails are very long  — nearly the length of their body.

Though typically shy around humans, cougars can harm livestock or domestic animals from time to time, and Amazi said they’ll cause about the same amount of damage as a coyote.

Cougar attacks and even sightings are uncommon, as Vorland said the animals typically prey on deer or wild rabbits.

Vorland encouraged people to always practice good stewardship as animal and pet owners, as there are always animals like coyotes, foxes, owls and other predators around.

Vorland encouraged people to report cougar footprints, pictures or credible sitings by contacting her office at 507-455-5841 or info.dnr@state.mn.us.

Cougars are a protected species, so they may only be killed by a licensed peace officer or authorized permit holder.

For more on cougars, go to www.dnr.state.mn.us/mammals/cougar/index.html.