'I think it lives there'
Cougar photographed along river near Savage
SAVAGE, Minn. -- A cougar seems to be roaming the Minnesota River valley near Savage.
"I think it lives there," said Con Christianson, furbearer specialist for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
Cougars, also known as mountain lions, were once common in Minnesota, but there are few confirmed sightings now. The DNR knows of no breeding population of them in the state.
Kerry Kammann, an employee at Cargill's grain elevator in Savage, heard rumors of a cougar near the facility earlier this month. On the morning of April 9, Kammann and a colleague found cougar tracks and a deer carcass in freshly fallen snow near the elevator.
The deer "was roughed up pretty good," Kammann said. "There were puncture marks and clamping on the throat. It looked like they had a pretty good tussle."
That night he bought a camera with an infrared motion detector and set it up in a tree about 10 feet from the deer carcass. The next morning he returned to find that the camera had snapped a few shots. He got shots of the cougar the next two nights as well.
Christianson said the DNR had received other reports of a cougar in the area, which supports deer, turkeys and other wildlife.
"It wouldn't surprise me if an animal like that could make a living there," he said.
He said it's not clear whether the cougar could be a threat to people.
"I wouldn't say it's dangerous. I wouldn't say it isn't," he said. There's no definitive way to tell whether the animal is wild or an escaped pet, he said, which would change the way it relates to humans.
Cougars are protected in Minnesota, and it's illegal to trap or hunt them.
Christianson said this is the only case he knows of a cougar living in Minnesota instead of just passing through.