Is that a cougar making its way through the lush, late-summer greenery in Eden Prairie?
On Monday afternoon, an Eden Prairie resident took a photo that appears to show one near Purgatory Creek, south of Cold Stream Lane. Police in the west metro city shared the photo in a tweet Thursday night, saying they're working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to positively identify the animal in the photo.
It wasn't the first cougar sighting reported in Eden Prairie this summer. Two weeks ago, police were told of a possible sighting near Staring Lake.
That same week, two cougar sightings were reported in Bloomington. Residents in the area of Chicago Avenue and 102nd Street reported seeing a large cat on two occasions over three days. They described the animal as looking like a cougar, but no photos were taken.
According to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, 30 cougar sightings have been reported in Minnesota over the past 15 years.
Cougars were found in most of Minnesota before European settlement, the DNR website says. "Today, they are rarely seen but occasionally do appear," it says. "While evidence might suggest the animal's prevalence is increasing, the number of verified cougar observations indicates that cougar occurrence in Minnesota is the result of transient animals from the western Dakotas."
The website goes on to say that while some Minnesota cougar sightings do prove authentic, "many observations from trail cameras and tracks turn out to be cases of mistaken identify. Bobcats, house cats, coyotes, wolves, fishers and light-colored dogs have all been mistaken as cougars."
Even so, the DNR urges caution. If you encounter a cougar, it warns, don't run, but "face the cougar directly, raise your arms to make yourself appear larger and speak loudly and firmly."
Cougars are a protected species and may not be shot, the DNR said. Any sightings should be reported to law enforcement or conservation authorities.