It appears Minnesota has lost its cougar to Wisconsin.
A cougar, which was first spotted in Champlin this month and then Vadnais Heights and Stillwater, may have crossed the St. Croix River. Biologists who have tracked a cougar through parts of St. Croix, Pierce and Dunn counties in western Wisconsin suspect the cougar is the same one that trekked through the eastern metro. DNA tests on hair samples collected in Stillwater and in Pierce and Dunn counties could determine whether that is true. Results from the Wildlife Genetics Lab in Missoula, Mont., may be available in two weeks.
Last week, a Wisconsin farmer photographed cougar tracks near Spring Valley, which is about 25 miles east of the St. Croix River. DNR biologist Harvey Halvorsen picked up the cougar's trail on Friday, tracking the big cat for more than a mile to the Eau Galle River. The next night, a motion-activated trail camera near Downsville in Dunn County photographed a cougar. DNR biologist Jess Carstens verified the tracks on Monday, indicating the cougar is moving south and east at a rate of 5 to 7 miles a day.
Carstens found what could be the cougar's cache -- a partially eaten fawn covered with corn stalks from a farmer's field. Evidence examined Tuesday indicates the cat returned to it overnight.
Wildlife officials say the risk of a cougar attack is small because they typically avoid contact with humans. Cougars are protected in Wisconsin, making it illegal to kill one except to prevent injury to a human.
MARY LYNN SMITH