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DNR confirms 110-lb. mountain lion killed on road near Bemidji

Beltrami County Sheriff's Deputy Lee Anderson shows a mountain lion that was struck and killed Friday night on Carr Lake Road.
Courtesy of the Beltrami County Sheriff’s Office
Beltrami County Sheriff’s Deputy Lee Anderson shows a mountain lion that was struck and killed Friday night on Carr Lake Road.

GRAND FORKS, N.D. — Drive most any northern Minnesota road at night and you should know to watch for deer, raccoons, skunks, maybe even moose or bear.

But a mountain lion?

Biologists with the state Department of Natural Resources report that a motorist struck and killed a mountain lion near Bemidji Friday night.

What especially attracted interest from the DNR was that initial reports indicated the big cat was female, which could suggest a breeding population in Minnesota. Up to now, mountain-lion sightings in the state tend to be of young males.

“They told us it was female, and we didn’t think to look closer,” said a slightly sheepish Blane Klemek, assistant area wildlife manager for the DNR in Bemidji. “But it’s not the easiest thing to determine on a cat,” especially one struck by a motor vehicle. “The folks at the lab will be able to do a fuller examination.”

Sent to Grand Rapids research office
Klemek said the 110-pound mountain lion appeared to be 2 to 3 years old, “in very good condition with good fur and good teeth,” and it appeared to be wild, not released or escaped from captivity. It had not been declawed and had no signs of ear tags or collar.

The animal was sent Monday to the DNR’s forest wildlife research office in Grand Rapids.

Mountain lions also are called puma, cougar, deer lion (deer make up 80 to 90 percent of their diet), Mexican lion or mountain screamer, for their piercing cry. Adults can reach a total length of 5 to 9 feet, including 2 to 3 feet of tail, and weigh 100 to 220 pounds. They can live about 12 years in the wild and prefer mountains, hilly woodlands and southern swamps. They can leap 20 feet in a single bound.

They are solitary animals, mostly nocturnal, according to scientists who have studied them. Active year-round, they are adept climbers and an individual animal has a range of 25 to 35 square miles.

Klemek said that wild cougars spotted in Minnesota likely are from the Black Hills of South Dakota or the Badlands of North Dakota.

“As territories are occupied out there by resident males; young males have to find their own territories and sometimes will migrate long distances,” he said. “There is still no evidence of a breeding population in Minnesota.”

Appear to be making a comeback
Mountain lions once roamed most of North America. They were eradicated from the Great Plains eastward by encroaching civilization, but they appear to have started making a comeback over the past 20 years.

A 150-pound cougar was captured in Worthington, Minn., in 1992, and sightings were reported in Maple Grove in 1996. But the first verified killing of a cougar in Minnesota since 1897 occurred in 2001 north of McGregor.

A year later, a cougar tripped an infrared-sensitive camera as it ate from a deer carcass in Savage, and a month after that a Bloomington police officer shot one as it crouched near a walking path. DNR pathologists inspected the animal but could not determine whether it had wandered in from the west or been released from captivity.

In eastern South Dakota and in Iowa, cougar sightings became so frequent about five years ago that they sparked rumors that state natural resources departments were stocking the animals to control deer populations. The rumors were so widespread in Iowa that the DNR posted a denial on its Web site. At the time, wildlife experts warned people not to run from a mountain lion they might encounter on the prairie or in the woodlands.

“‘You don’t take flight,” said John Wrede, a wildlife specialist in Rapid City, S.D., for the state Game, Fish and Parks Department. “For a lot of people, that is an instinct that’s very difficult to suppress. But it will stimulate the chase response. It telegraphs to the animal that you’re something easy.

“They are highly intelligent and very calculating animals,” he said. “But they are seldom aggressive unless backed into a corner or they have reason to defend a kill, a meal or a kitten. They’ll back out of a conflict virtually every time.’

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Comments (27)

  1. Submitted by Pat Janos on 09/22/2009 - 12:14 pm.

    I’m a cat fancier, both domestic and wild. It’s sad that this beautiful animal was killed by accident but sadder that the officer was smiling for the photo as though this cougar was a trophy. I am hoping that this was not the case.

    Your article was very helpful telling us how not to respond to an accidental wild animal sighting by turning and running. I didn’t know that.

    How great it would be to see such a beautiful animal in the wild!

    • Submitted by Shawn Gilbertson on 09/25/2015 - 09:38 am.

      I don’t think his smile is very proud, but rather looks kind of forced to me. I am a huge admirer of cats myself, they are a magnificent predator. I have had a run in with a wild mountain lion one time, and I could go the rest of my life without ever seeing one again. It was early dawn, just light enough to see but yet the sun not in view. He/she walked across the road in was walking on about 30-40 yards in front of me. And even while it was impressive and kind of amazing, I would be lying if in told you I wasn’t terrified. I have never been scared of anything in the woods before, I froze. It froze for a little bit, seemingly just as shocked by my presence as I was of its. Then it trotted off into the woods. The chill I felt took quite some time to go away.

    • Submitted by Thomas Higgins on 09/29/2016 - 02:16 pm.

      Same goes for brown bear

      I stood my ground with a brown bear in Denali NP Alaska. It initially charged from 100 yards down to 25 yards. Then stopped, circled me at about 20 yards after about 300 degrees turned took off running up the valley and watched me for a while from there.
      Bear rules are
      Make noise to let them know you are near
      If they see you
      Stand your ground
      Make yourself as large as possible
      Make noise
      Talk to the bear
      It worked for me.
      Oh the bear initially charged me because with me in view of bear and without thinking I kneeled down to reload my film camera.

  2. Submitted by RJ Hendrickson on 09/22/2009 - 12:24 pm.

    A neighbor living on a farm east of Hibbing back in the 60’s had a sound tape recording of a mountain lion that frequented the area, and reported that he had seen it in his fields. These animals are not new to MN, but are seldom seen because they are nocturnal and very, very reclusive (and, there’s plenty of thick woods to hide in in MN). A neighbor out here in the mountains of So. CA has kept them away from his livestock merely by putting a yard light near his livestock pen. They don’t like even a small amount of illumination, and won’t come around if you have dogs.

  3. Submitted by dan buechler on 09/22/2009 - 01:40 pm.

    I agree that the photo was offputting. perhaps some editorial/photoshopping is in order.

  4. Submitted by RJ Hendrickson on 09/22/2009 - 02:36 pm.

    Oh, right. Let’s fake the news with photoshop if a deputy smiles at an inappropriate moment. What are you thinking?

  5. Submitted by dan buechler on 09/22/2009 - 02:43 pm.

    Cropping a photo is not fakery. Choosing another photo if one is available is another option. RJ what side of the bed did you wake up on today? Better put some cream in yer coffee you r cranky.

  6. Submitted by RJ Hendrickson on 09/22/2009 - 03:08 pm.

    Sorry Dan, I don’t agree.

    Tell the news as it is, don’t ‘politcally correct’ it because it may offend some. I want reality, not propaganda.

    If the deputy smiled, well, that’s the way he felt at the moment. That’s life, that’s reality. Dumbing down the news for the masses is not a good thing, and I hope MinnPost agrees. If not, I’ll look for my daily news fix somewhere else.

    (And yes, I did have cream[er]in my coffee this morning — too bad we can’t even buy real cream anymore, or I’d have used that!)

  7. Submitted by Marta Fahrenz on 09/22/2009 - 03:27 pm.

    The photo was demeaning to a beautiful wild animal whose life ended badly. Better not to have published one at all.

  8. Submitted by RJ Hendrickson on 09/22/2009 - 03:56 pm.

    Demeaning? Dead wild animals (for that matter, live ones) don’t know or feel demeaned by anything. Trying to humanize animal feelings just leads to mistreatment of them.

    The article/photo is what really happenned when a cougar was hit by a car. Why do we have to ‘happy’ it up for consumption by the public?

  9. Submitted by dan buechler on 09/22/2009 - 04:16 pm.

    R.J. political correctness is for people who think they know it all. I don’t, I really, really don’t. But thanks for the chest thumping anyways you big lug. Have some fun.

  10. Submitted by Danny McConnell on 09/22/2009 - 08:40 pm.

    If given the chance, this animal kills fawns, pregnant does, nesting grouse, a family of otters and anything else that moves, including you.

    The commenters on this board really need to get into touch with reality.

    You don’t know this cop. Maybe he didn’t want to look like the typical angry cop. Next time, I hope he asks you how you want him to look, so he doesn’t rub your gentle hearts the wrong way. Maybe with a kleenex and red eyes? Maybe with gun drawn looking for the Neanderthal driver of the car that killed this helpless animal.

    Maybe he was just happy to have attention for payed to his job for something other than a DUI, rape, murder, assault etc.

    Maybe, he’s a northern Minnesotan like me and happy to see this beautiful creature restored back to its historic range.

    You don’t know this cop, and he doesn’t know you, but he puts his life on the line for yours, give him a break and keep your views to yourself.

  11. Submitted by dan buechler on 09/23/2009 - 02:43 pm.

    McConnel, you don’t know me or the other commentators so don’t pretend that you do. I just would have liked to see a picture with the animal next to 2 yardsticks for reference. Its great that it kills fawns and does that is its intention. Where do you want the cougar to live in Minnesota or not. By the way the dead cougar photo I saw in SD was where it was discovered or shot. i guess free speech is a rarity in your company.

  12. Submitted by John Hawkins on 09/25/2009 - 08:39 am.

    I know you are all making a big deal about this whole smiling thing but I think its all for nothing. I cant speak for Lee but I do believe that what he is smiling at is not the fact that he is holding up a dead cougar, I am sure he would rather the cougar be alive. But he is holding a rare and iconic creature of MN. It is, despite the fact of it being dead, an awesome thing to come by.

  13. Submitted by John Hawkins on 09/25/2009 - 08:44 am.

    Also thank you Danny. I am from Beltrami county and my dad is a very good friend of this particular deputy. From what I know of Lee Anderson your speculations are quite accurate. I see nothing wrong with this picture, and I want to thank Lee for his dedication to Beltrami County.

  14. Submitted by Beryl John-Knudson on 09/26/2009 - 10:39 am.

    I’m not a supporter of dead animal portraits – or dead people portraits be it here or in the Mid-East.

    But there is a frozen-in-time reality here; cougar and man. Take a moment of silence, so to speak, to remember all the dead rabbits and birds and somebody’s dead domestic cat or dog who possibly, ‘existentially’, could just be applauding silently in the background?

    You could say too, everybody sees what they want to see… and of course if one wants to look on the brighter side, note that both man and beast have similar smiles on their faces…hmmmm, maybe the cougar knows something we don’t know?

    And on second – or is it third thought – “applauding silently”…there’s the rub, eh?

  15. Submitted by Henk Tobias on 09/27/2009 - 08:35 pm.

    Put 99% of the population in front of a camera and what do they do? Smile. Relax, the guy did what people do when they have their picture taken.

  16. Submitted by Shawn Gilbertson on 09/25/2015 - 09:46 am.

    Everybody has their own perceptions….where it gets hairy is when these perceptions are allowed to make assumptions, and the assumptions molded into your reality. Personally, I don’t think that smile is a super happy one. That is my perception. But I may very well be wrong, as I don’t know him or anything about him. Maybe he is over flowing with happiness at the sight of a dead animal. I don’t know. I do know, personally, I see nothing wrong with this picture. And I lean towards the idea that he is smiling simply because that is a rare moment with a not common to see creature.

  17. Submitted by Leticia Jensen on 09/25/2015 - 11:19 am.

    Dan & RJ,It’s great to see

    Dan & RJ,
    It’s great to see someone disagree without getting mean & nasty. Thanks for the fine example of a good argument.

  18. Submitted by Angie Anderson on 09/25/2015 - 04:59 pm.

    Its a news article.

    THANK YOU Henk T.. Seriously people its a news article.. He was smiling for the picture.. not because of the deceased animal. He didn’t go out and run into it with his vehicle.. He was taking a picture for the report… What has this world come to.. I hate how I can’t read any news articles now days without it getting political.

  19. Submitted by Amy Middleton on 09/26/2015 - 07:53 pm.

    Pic of deceased mountain lion

    These are seldom-seen animals. They are not overpopulated, and they’re not pack animals. To come across one, either alive or dead, is a rare experience. For a DNR officer to pose with one as if it was a trophy kill is completely inappropriate and disrespectful. How in the h**l did he even submit this photo? I hope his superiors reflect on the message to the public that this hapless individual has put out. Btw, I’m in Colorado now… From MN.

    • Submitted by Scott Nielsen on 09/27/2016 - 06:59 pm.

      Rare sighting, allegedly

      Not rare. Practically everyone I know that has spent time in the woods in NE Minn /NW WI has seen one. I have, twice. The DNR is wrong, they’very been here all along.

      • Submitted by Eugene R. Sanborn on 09/29/2016 - 09:38 pm.

        Cougars

        Mountain Lions are not rare to Minnesota! I have seen quite a few. There was one living south of Battle Lake back in the ’60’s. Saw it run across the highway early one morning. and have heard it growl while on a hunt when it was cold out, close to 0 or below zero many nights. Saw one cross the highway (Gunflint Trail) a couple years ago while heading up the trail to go camping. There havae been mountain lions just est of Chaska just before the construction of Interstate 212. They loved to chase the turkeys. And when the Minnesota River flooded in the late 90’searly 2000’s one was chased out of the river bottom between Chaska and Carver. So in my 55 plus years of living in Minnesota I have seen a few. They were big cats, not small ones. Saw a few lynx heading towards Duluth too.

  20. Submitted by Kathy Kahlstorf on 09/29/2015 - 11:26 am.

    seriously? I agree!

    Kerrie, I second your comment exactly!

    Who living in the area wouldn’t be surprised to come upon HER while outside in northern Minnesota: bear, wolves, perhaps a bobcat. The research findings will be interesting.

    I’d like to add too, smiling for a picture is a “knee-jerk” reaction especially if you are uncomfortable?

  21. Submitted by Jay Johnson on 09/27/2016 - 05:18 pm.

    It is a dead cat!

    I feel bad that this majestic cat was hit by a car. Having hit a few deer in my day, reminds me of the horrible feelings that accompany that kind of experience. (Not to mention the deductible I have to pay to get my car fixed). The folks that were appalled at the officers smile are obviously city folks. Those of us that have country homes and livestock know the damage that wolf, coyote and big cats can do. I don’t go out of my way to shoot them as my biggest troublemaker has been brown rats. I’ve even seen bear tracks in my yard but have no trouble with them. They don’t mess with my animals, feed or garbage cans. It amazes me that folks will get behind a presidential candidate that took donations of $20 million from human abortions but get all sad to see a dead cat. SAVE THE HUMANS!!

  22. Submitted by Michael Davis on 10/01/2016 - 11:32 am.

    Mountain lion in Bemidgi

    The deputy isnt smiling he is posing like someone having a picture. This is a tragedy but also an indication that we have been waiting for, possible breeding populations in MN. I am not with the DNR, i am an animal lover and founder of Minnesota Animal Services Alliance.

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