Motorist strikes, kills big cat
About 10:40 p.m. Friday, a vehicle struck and killed a mountain lion on the Schoolcraft River Bridge on Carr Lake Road Southwest.
Blane Klemek, assistant area wildlife manager for the DNR, said biologists at the DNR Forest Wildlife Populations and Research Group have taken the mountain lion for examination. He said they determined the cat was a sub-adult male about 2 years old.
"I would agree looking at the animal on Saturday morning - the condition of its pelage, the condition of its teeth," Klemek said.
The biologists will conduct a necropsy examination of the animal to determine whether it was an escaped captive or a wild mountain lion, he said. They will look for evidence of a collar, tattoo or tag that would indicate a captive animal. They will also examine the contents of its stomach and look for evidence of external and internal parasites. The biologists will also conduct DNA sampling.
"A captive cat would probably have a different parasite load than a wild cat," Klemek said. "All signs seem to indicate that this particular animal was indeed wild but we don't know that for sure."
Klemek said the cat was in good physical condition when it was killed and weighed an estimated 110 pounds.
The cat had not been declawed as a captive mountain lion would have been.
The cat was first taken to the Beltrami County Sheriff's Office, then to the Bemidji DNR before going to the Grand Rapids wildlife research group Monday morning.
Klemek said the DNR frequently gets calls from people reporting mountain lion sightings, but the cat killed Friday night was the first to be confirmed. He said there had been a call earlier Friday of a sighting near Lehmann Park in South Lake Irving. It was probably the same animal that was killed that night, he said.
When sightings are reported, he said DNR officials investigate looking for prints, hair or other sign, Klemek said.
"It is believed that there is no breeding population of mountain lions in Minnesota," he said. No sightings of mothers with kittens have been reported.
"They tend to be transitory males," Klemek said. "Here's a young male that's trying to find his own territory."
As an animal in an area possibly new to it, the cat could have been confused and unfamiliar with the territory, Klemek said.
Ruth Anspach, who lives across the road from where the mountain lion was killed, was one of the first people to approach the crash site.
"I couldn't quite grasp that I was looking at a cougar lying dead across the street from my home," she said in a release. "It made me a little nervous when I think of all the times that kids have played around the house and neighborhood."
She said she was relieved to know the predator wouldn't be a danger, "but on the other hand, it was such a beautiful and rare creature that it shouldn't have had to die like this."