UPDATE: Road-kill cougar to get full examination
NIMROD—A mountain lion, believed hit by a car near Nimrod, will soon receive a full necropsy to determine more details about the rare animal.
The mountain lion, also called a cougar, was reportedly hit at about 9 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 6, near the Wadena and Cass county line. The driver that collided into the cat then returned to retrieve the animal the next morning and report the animal to the Minnesota DNR, according to DNR Area Wildlife Supervisor in Park Rapids Eric Thorson. At that point, a DNR official took possession of the cat and delivered it to the Brainerd wildlife office. It was then transported to Grand Rapids, where it will get a full necropsy, similar to an autopsy. The results of that will hopefully give wildlife officials a better idea about the cougar's death, health, age, weight and possibly even a look at where it came from. Thorson said that information can also help determine if this was a wild cat or one raised in captivity.
The mountain lion weighed 142 pounds, according to Jesse Koskiniemi, a Nimrod resident who was asked to come take a look at the feline after it had been found. Thorson said researchers will weigh the cougar to get an official weight. Koskiniemi posted photos of the cat on Facebook drawing a lot of attention to the rare occurrence.
Koskiniemi said the cat has been around for years and his neighbors have numerous photos of mountain lions. Thorson encourages people to send those kind of photos to the DNR so they can better track the movement of mountain lions in the state. While he said many people report seeing them, they are seldom verifiable sightings. In some cases they are mistaken for a bobcat or even a house cat.
The number of verified cougar observations indicate that cougar occurrence in Minnesota is a result of transient animals from the Western Dakotas, according to the Minnesota DNR website.
The 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.
Fourteen verified cougar sightings in the last four years, the documented trek of one male cougar from western South Dakota through Minnesota and Wisconsin to southwestern Connecticut and the shooting of a cougar in southwestern Minnesota's Jackson County are other recent encounters the DNR notes on their website.
This mountain lion appeared to be of average size as adult males can reach 200 pounds but most are much smaller and average about 150 pounds. Adult females usually weigh about 90 to 110 pounds, according to the DNR.
Thorson said this is just the second road-killed cougar to be recorded in Minnesota's history. The other one occurred in 2009 near Bemidji.
"This is really quite rare," Thorson said of the cougar. Rare not only as a verified sighting, but also to be killed by a vehicle. He noted that even in areas where cougars are very common, they are rarely ever hit on the roads.
While many commenters on social media say the DNR denies mountain lions in the state, the Minnesota DNR website clearly shows verified sightings of the large cats in and around the state. While they are rare, they are known to make appearances.
"Cougars that we know of have all been males," Thorson said. He adds that areas of Minnesota, including the Nimrod area, have great habitat and food to support the animals if they happen to be passing through.