Two cougar sightings have been reported in the immediate Pelican Rapids municipal, both reports coming in less than one month.
The latest sighting was Oct. 28, said Police Chief Jeff Stadum, adding that his department was phoned about 8:30 a.m. The sighting last week was on the street above Carr Field, on the west side of town by the practice football field and second soccer field.
An earlier sighting was three weeks ago, on the gravel section of Tenth Ave SE, said Chief Stadum.
“It’s starting to get a little concerning,” said Stadum after the second sighting, which he is suspecting is probably the same animal. “The cougar isn’t moving on…This could mean it is becoming adapted to the area.”
Sightings of single, wandering cougars have been more frequent in the wider region over the past few years—though still very uncommon. But the circumstantial evidence suggests that this big cat may be getting a little too comfortable near the city. Stadum noted that there is a substantial deer herd that roams close to town, which is potentially a steady food source for the predator.
His best advice to Pelican residents?
“Yell, scream, make a lot of noise—and hopefully the cat will move on,”said Stadum.
Pelican officers have ready weapons at their disposal.
First, what Stadum descried as a “bean bag” gun that, if an officer is able to get in range of the cat. The weapon propels a hard bag, with the intent of scaring the critter off.
Each squad car is also equipped with a rifle—and the truth is, said Stadum, it may come down to a lethal shot. The Pelican PD essentially has clearance from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to do what is necessary.
“Sooner or later, this could be a real problem…If we encounter it, we may have to just take care of it,” said Stadum. “It may need to be destroyed.”
Stadum urges citizens to call 911 immediately if there is a sighting.
Sometimes referred to as a mountain lion or puma – the cougar was found throughout most of Minnesota prior to European settlement, though never in large numbers.
While reports might suggest the animal’s prevalence is increasing, the number of verified cougar observations indicate that cougar occurrence in Minnesota is a result of transient animals from the Western Dakotas.
The DNR has little evidence to suggest that there is a “resident” breeding population of cougars in Minnesota.
Based on most evidence, the Pelican Rapids cougar is likely roaming tourist—just passing through.
Face to face with a big cat? Here’s what you should do
• Face the cougar directly, raise your arms to make yourself appear larger and speak loudly and firmly. This behavior is in direct conflict with a cougar’s tendency to hunt by stalking and attacking from ambush. Do not run, crouch or lay on the ground.
• Do not shoot the animal, even if livestock or pets are threatened. Cougars are a protected species and may only be killed by a licensed peace officer or authorized permit holder.
• Report the encounter or sighting to a conservation officer or local law enforcement authorities as soon as possible so evidence such as photographs, tracks, hair and scat can be located, identified, confirmed and documented.