When it comes to spotting big cats in Minnesota, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources says the state has three native wildcat species: bobcats, Canada lynx, and the cougar.

Of those three, by far the most common in Minnesota are bobcats. The DNR notes that about 2,000 bobcats live in northern Minnesota, although few humans ever see a bobcat in the wild.

Cougars, by comparison, are very rare in Minnesota, especially near Minneapolis. Although the DNR says that transient cougars are known to occasionally travel through the state, there were just six recorded cougar observations last year in the form of things like paw prints, scat, roadkill, or photos. It is also likely that some if not all of those were the same cat.

Before Monday, there has been only one instance of a cougar captured on camera in Hennepin County since 2004. That's what makes what was captured early Monday morning on a home security camera less than two miles away from Minneapolis even more remarkable.

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According to FOX 9, at around 3:30 a.m. Monday morning, a cougar hopped a fence in the Lowry neighborhood and walked across a shared driveway before making its way to another yard.

Based on fresh tracks observed in the overnight snow on the same block the video was captured, it would appear the cougar enjoyed its stay in that neighborhood Monday night.

Is this a sign of more cougar encounters to come in Minnesota? According to the Minnesota DNR, while such evidence might suggest the animal's prevalence is increasing, the number of verified cougar observations indicates 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.

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Furthermore, while some cougar sightings in Minnesota are accurately identified, such as the one captured in this video, many observations from trail cameras and tracks turn out to be cases of mistaken identity. Bobcats, house cats, coyotes, wolves, fishers, and light-colored dogs have all been mistaken as cougars.

Because cougar observations are very rare, the DNR is interested in gathering information that can be verified by photos or physical evidence of a cougar sighting. Observations can be submitted to a local wildlife office or conservation officer.

However, if a cougar encounter does occur, the DNR offers the following tips:

  • 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.
  • 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 tendency to hunt by stalking and attacking from ambush. Do not run, crouch, or lay on the ground.
  • Report the encounter or sighting. Immediately notify a conservation officer or local law enforcement authorities so evidence such as photographs, tracks, hair, and scat can be located, identified, confirmed, and documented.

Why do cats have whiskers? Why do they meow? Why do they nap so much? And answers to 47 other kitty questions:

Why do they meow? Why do they nap so much? Why do they have whiskers? Cats, and their undeniably adorable babies known as kittens, are mysterious creatures. Their larger relatives, after all, are some of the most mystical and lethal animals on the planet. Many questions related to domestic felines, however, have perfectly logical answers. Here’s a look at some of the most common questions related to kittens and cats, and the answers cat lovers are looking for.

Gallery Credit: Andrew Lisa

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