Cougar tracks were spotted in the snow in a Minneapolis neighborhood Tuesday morning, one day after the big cat was captured on home security video footage.
The cougar sauntered across the driveway of a Lowry Hill home about 3:30 a.m. Monday, surprising the homeowner, who was at his Wisconsin cabin when he saw the alert on his smart phone.
"I thought it was one of those morning dreams where you doze off and it seems really realistic," said Rick, who asked that his last name not be used to avoid further commotion in the neighborhood.
Late Tuesday afternoon, officials with Minneapolis Animal Care and Control and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources said they had confirmed that a cougar was living around the 1700 block of Logan Avenue S., in the Lowry Hill neighborhood not far from Lake of the Isles and Cedar Lake. They warned the public in that area to be cautious.
"Parents of small children should pay increased attention when outside," said Caroline Hairfield, the city's animal control director, in a statement. "Pet owners with small dogs or cats should supervise their animals when they are outdoors."
The agencies were working together on tracking the cougar, and reminded the public that it's against the law to hunt a non-game animal. The DNR and other licensed peace officers may remove the cougar if it poses a threat to public safety.
Rick, the Lowry Hill homeowner who captured the cougar on his home video, said he has seen a few cougars — also known as mountain lions — before. But having one pass his house in the city was surreal, he said, and didn't properly sink in until after his morning coffee.
Rick said he called police and sent the footage to the DNR. He worried about whether the cat would be able to find its way out of the city, and for the safety of his neighbors and pets.
He and his wife woke up Tuesday to find a bloody trail in their driveway, stretching from the garage to the street, that he suspected was left by a mutilated raccoon.
Rick sent the video to neighbor Dan Bruggeman, who said he was shocked to see the apex predator on his block.
"There's a sense of excitement, to have something like that in your neighborhood, but also a sense of concern," he said.
Even more surprising was seeing cougar tracks in the street Tuesday morning after Monday night's snowfall, he added.
Robyn Bruggeman posted the video Monday on the neighborhood website Nextdoor, eliciting more than 50 comments from people expressing shock, awe and concern for the animal. She wrote that authorities had been notified about the sighting.
The video shows the cougar leaping over a 4-foot fence. Rick said it would've also had to jump the house's 6-foot fence, not shown on the video, to make it by the garages.
This marks only the second time a cougar has been spotted in Hennepin County since 2004, though a cougar was found dead in Bloomington in 2020 after it apparently was hit by a vehicle on a freeway.
A cougar was spotted on video in Duluth this summer, and another was seen a few weeks ago in Carver County. A Wisconsin bowhunter fearing for his safety shot and killed a cougar last month east of Alma, Wis., just downriver from Wabasha, Minn.
There have been over 80 verified cougar occurrences in Minnesota since the DNR began tracking them around 2007. Seeing one of the big cats in a densely populated urban area like Minneapolis is "extremely rare," said Dan Stark of the DNR.
This year has seen an estimated 16 to 20 occurrences in Minnesota, the most ever. Verified sightings have increased in recent years, though it's not clear whether that's due to more cougars passing through or more home security cameras, Stark said.
Occurrences have been scattered across the state, from Duluth to Bemidji, from the Rochester area to Aitkin County, he said.
If you run into a cougar, don't approach or corner it. The best thing to do is to appear bigger by holding your hands above your head, waving a hat or jacket and throwing rocks or sticks at the animal, Stark said. Make a lot of noise, and pick up small children and pets. Whatever you do, don't run; if the cougar attacks, it's recommended to fight back.
Encounters and sightings should be reported as soon as possible to a conservation officer or local law enforcement so that evidence — such as tracks, hair and scat — can be documented. Hairfield said residents should report sightings to 311 or the DNR at 651-296-6157.