The cougar spotted roaming the Lowry Hill neighborhood in Minneapolis this week was struck by a motorist and killed early Wednesday as it crossed a freeway.
Nathan Kmetz, 53, was driving west on Interstate 394 near Theodore Wirth Parkway at 2:15 a.m. when the cat appeared out of nowhere. He said he had no chance to stop.
"I never saw it," Kmetz said Wednesday in an interview. "There was a thump, my car went into the median. It happened so fast."
Kmetz was not seriously hurt, but hours after the crash was experiencing some soreness resulting from his Hummer's airbag, which deployed on impact.
His Hummer was totaled, he said.
Video from SafetyVid obtained by the Star Tribune showed the 2-year-old male cougar leaping a concrete wall on the south side of I-394, crossing the eastbound lanes, jumping over another divider, crossing the reversible EZ Pass lane and jumping a third divider before entering the westbound lanes where it was struck.
The fatal crash happened about a mile or so from where the cougar was last spotted. On Tuesday afternoon, Minneapolis city officials had warned residents about a cougar living near the 1700 block of Logan Avenue S. and that it may be traveling through the Cedar Lake trail system. The cat was last seen near Lake of the Isles
Minneapolis Animal Care and Control and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) had been tracking the animal Tuesday, one day after the big cat was captured on home security video footage in the neighborhood.
The DNR recovered the cougar and plans to take it to the agency's Wildlife Research office in Grand Rapids to determine an official cause of death, said Joe Albert, communications coordinator in the DNR's Enforcement Division.
Albert said the cougar — also known as a mountain lion — was likely the cat seen in Minneapolis and that officials were looking for.
While it was not clear how the cougar made its way to Minneapolis, Albert said officials with the Nebraska Game and Parks confirmed it was a wild cougar that had been tagged in northwest Nebraska.
Cougar sightings in a densely populated area are "extremely rare," said Dan Stark of the DNR.
This marked only the third time a cougar has been spotted in Hennepin County since 2004. That includes one found dead in Bloomington in 2020 after it apparently was hit by a vehicle on a freeway.
There have been over 80 verified cougar occurrences in Minnesota since the DNR began tracking them around 2007. A cougar was spotted on video in Duluth this summer, and another was seen a few weeks ago in Carver County. A Wisconsin bowhunter fearing for his safety shot and killed a cougar last month east of Alma, Wis., just downriver from Wabasha, Minn.
This year has seen an estimated 16 to 20 occurrences in Minnesota, the most ever, Stark said.
Staff writer Hannah Ward contributed to this story.