Cougar spotted in Champlin
CHAMPLIN, Minn. -- Residents of a northern Twin Cities neighborhood are on alert after a cougar was sighted in the Champlin area.
A police dash camera caught the large cat on tape early Saturday. A Minnesota Department of Natural Resources officer watched the tape and confirmed to KARE 11 that the animal is a cougar.
VIDEO: Police dashcam footage of cougar
Champlin Police Chief David Schwarze calls it a "very unique sighting". The animal was spotted in a residential area near Highway 169 and the Mississippi River. "I think even the officers that were on that night had to look twice at this to see that they were really seeing was an actual cougar."
Police are stepping up patrols in the area and Schwarze is asking residents to be on the lookout. He says there have been no sightings before or since, nor have there been any reports of missing pets or other animals.
The Mississippi is a natural travel corridor for wild animals. Thus, some experts think the animal may be gone from the area. Marisa Paulat of the Como Park Zoo in Saint Paul says the big cats will avoid humans in the wild and the humans should take the cue.
"They are dangerous and very strong. I would be wary especially in the evening or in the early morning. That's when they do their hunting. The ones you see around the Twin Cities are most likely someone's pet that they realized it was not a good idea to have a wild animal as a pet and let go."
Paulet does say that male cougars can range as far as 350 miles. "We do have cougars that are coming into the Minnesota area now from the west. The population is moving this way. Most of the ones that have been seen are younger males that are looking for females and a territory to live. We have plenty of food here (other wild prey) for them to eat, but most of them are passing through because females are not here for them."
Chief Schwarze asks that anyone seeing a cougar should not take action other than to call 911.
Paulat says if an encounter is inevitable and unavoidable, size matters. "If you did encounter one, try to look bigger than they do. Maybe jump up and down, put your arms in the air, throw sticks. The worst thing you can do is hit the ground and get lower than them because then you're going to look like prey to them."
(Copyright 2009 by KARE and The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)