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Cougars in Minnesota and what to do if you run into one

The cougar - sometimes referred to as a mountain lion or puma - was found throughout most of Minnesota prior to European settlement, though never in large numbers. Today, they are rarely seen but occasionally do appear.

While evidence might suggest the animal's prevalence is increasing, the number of verified cougar observations indicate that cougar occurrence in Minnesota is a result of transient animals from the Western Dakotas.

In addition, DNR annual scent-post and winter tracking surveys have recorded no evidence to suggest the possibility of a resident breeding population of cougars in Minnesota.

Fourteen verified cougar sightings in the last four years, the documented trek of one male cougar from western South Dakota through Minnesota and Wisconsin to southwestern Connecticut and the shooting of a cougar in southwestern Minnesota's Jackson County has understandably peaked interest and speculation about cougars in Minnesota.

Because of their highly secretive nature, an encounter with a cougar is extremely rare in Minnesota. If an encounter should occur:

n Face the cougar directly, raise your arms to make yourself appear larger and speak loudly and firmly. This behavior is in direct conflict with a cougar's tendancy to hunt by stalking and attacking from ambush. Do not run, crouch or lay on the ground.

n Do not shoot the animal, even if livestock or pets are threatened. Cougars are a protected species and may only be killed by a licensed peace officer or authorized permit holder.

n Report the encounter or sighting to a conservation officer or local law enforcement authorities as soon as possible so evidence such as photographs, tracks, hair and scat can be located, identified, confirmed and documented.