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Sam Cook, Duluth News-Tribune
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Published Thursday, October 11, 2007
If you’re wondering whether mountain lions exist in northern Minnesota, Jim Schubitzke of Floodwood has a photo you might want to see.
It’s on a single frame from a digital trail camera. The camera recorded the image on Aug. 20 about 20 miles north of Floodwood.
And it’s definitely a mountain lion, or cougar.
“In the 25 years I’ve been here, it’s the first one in my work area when someone got a picture,” said Rich Staffon, Department of Natural Resources area wildlife manager at Cloquet. “It’s pretty likely that this is a wild mountain lion, not one that someone turned loose.”
Schubitzke said he had five trail cameras in the woods during the summer to monitor deer movements.
“I was lucky. This was the only one that had a flash on it,” he said.
The other cameras would have recorded the cat in black and white, but this shot is in color. The big cat, probably a male, Staffon said, was passing by a mineral block that Schubitzke had placed to attract deer. Schubitzke pulled all of his cameras out of the woods Oct. 1.
Several whitetail bucks had been visiting the mineral lick before the mountain lion passed by, Schubitzke said.
“After that evening, there was nothing there for many, many days,” he said.
Photos of mountain lions — especially wild ones — in Minnesota are rare. A photo of a mountain lion, or cougar, was captured along the Minnesota River near the Twin Cities a few years ago.
Bill Berg, now retired after a long career as wildlife biologist for the DNR in Grand Rapids, says he saw two videos and a few pictures of mountain lions in northern Minnesota, but it was always difficult to know if the animals were wild or escaped pets.
But Berg doesn’t doubt that a few mountain lions exist in Minnesota at any given time.
“No doubt there’s an animal now and then, and I think some of them are wild animals dispersing and some are cats that got too big for the kitty litter.”
Staffon’s office gets 10 to 15 reports a year from people who say they have seen mountain lions. Some are probably reliable, he said, and some may not be.
“It’s hard to tell,” Staffon said. “We’ve gotten reports of a mountain lion lying on a road, and when we get there, it’s a red fox.”
Staffon has twice seen tracks that he is sure were those of a mountain lion because a tail-drag mark was evident along with the footprints.
Biologists believe most of the mountain lion sightings in Northeastern Minnesota are animals roaming in from North Dakota or Canada.
“But we have had reports of people seeing kittens,” Staffon said. “So there may be some reproduction. I think it’s safe to say we have a small resident population and some migrants moving through.”
States such as North Dakota, where the mountain lion population is estimated at a few hundred, get 15 to 25 road-killed mountain lions per year, Staffon said.
“And we never get any road kills, so the population has to be pretty sparse,” he said.
In a 2003 News Tribune story, federal trapper Bill Paul with the U.S. Department of Agriculture said in 27 years of trapping that he had not seen or trapped a cougar. He had seen evidence of only four cougar-killed livestock during those years, he said.
Schubitzke said the photo of the cougar got him to thinking.
“I was spooked for a couple of days because I was bear-baiting just a couple hundred yards from there,” he said. “Now I’m back to normal.”
Source: Huntingnet.com News Archive