Cougar struck and killed near Minneapolis likely the one seen in home security video, expert says

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A cougar that was struck and killed on an interstate highway in suburban Minneapolis Wednesday was more than likely the same animal captured on home security video sauntering across a driveway earlier this week, a Minnesota wildlife official said.

An SUV struck the male cougar before dawn Wednesday on Interstate 394 in Golden Valley, Minnesota — a short distance from the Minneapolis neighborhood where a cougar showed up in surveillance video two days earlier.

Dan Stark, a large carnivore specialist with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, said the cougar that was killed was almost certainly the same one since the animals are exceedingly rare in that area. Until this week, a cougar hadn't been seen in Hennepin County in nearly 20 years.

Stark said the cougar that died had an ear tag placed on it in northwestern Nebraska in 2021, when it was a kitten. He said male cougars sometimes wander off in search of females in areas not dominated by other males.

“It's not the first cougar that wandered from those populations in western states,” Stark said.

The cougar created quite a buzz in Minneapolis. A homeowner told the Minneapolis Star Tribune that he was at a cabin in Wisconsin when he saw the alert on his smartphone at about 3:30 a.m. Monday that his home security video had been triggered. Footage showed the cougar ambling across the driveway.

On Tuesday, cougar tracks were found in the snow in the same neighborhood. Officials with Minneapolis Animal Control and the DNR confirmed that a cougar was living in the area and warned parents of small children and pet owners to be cautious.

The homeowner told the newspaper that he and his wife found a bloody trail in their driveway Tuesday morning stretching from the garage to the street. He suspected it was left by a mutilated raccoon. The man declined to give his full name to the newspaper.

Another neighbor who saw the footage, Dan Bruggeman, said he was shocked to see the cougar on his block.

“There’s a sense of excitement, to have something like that in your neighborhood, but also a sense of concern,” he said.

The DNR has cited more than 80 verified cougar occurrences in Minnesota since tracking began around 2007, but seeing one in a densely populated urban area such as Minneapolis is highly unusual, Stark said.