Minnesota lynx biologist Steve Loch prepared the following report.  The Cougar Network is indebted to Steve for conducting this investigation and bringing the incident to our attention.  We are also grateful to Steve for his past assistance to the Cougar Network in our efforts to evaluate and document other alleged "cougar occurrences" in the state of Minnesota.

 

REPORT

Submitted August 2, 2008

 

TRAIL CAMERA PHOTOGRAPHS MADE IN LATE OCTOBER 2007, VERIFY PRESENCE OF A COUGAR NEAR BROWNSVILLE, MINNESOTA

On Oct. 23, Nick Schaller, the 14 year old son of Ken and Kerry Schaller, residents of SE Minnesota, set a trail camera on their property in the hill country of Houston County.  By early morning, Oct. 30, 2007, a cougar had triggered their camera.  This location is approximately 3 km north of New Albin, Iowa and 4 km west of the Wisconsin border.

Evidence of the cougar's presence is provided through a sequence of photographs, which captured nocturnal activity of animals in proximity to a pond during a 72-hour period (10/27/07 -10/30/07). 

Although the photograph of the cougar is somewhat blurred due to movement, field marks, which collectively identify it as a cougar, are readily visible - i.e., facial mask, 'rounded' ears, long black-tipped tail, physique, and relative size compared to other animals that visited the site.

 

The Brownsville record is the third documented cougar occurrence in Minnesota since December 2004, when a radio-collared cougar that had emigrated from the Black Hills of South Dakota (its natal area) was radio-fixed in Harding County, near Slim Buttes in Sept. 2004, and then apparently traveled across North Dakota entering Minnesota near Grand Forks in December.  By January 2005, the cougar had traveled northwest to Roseau County near the Manitoba border, where it resided through approximately mid March. 

More than 2 years later, on August 20, 2007, the next verified cougar occurrence for Minnesota was recorded with a trail camera owned by Jim Schubitzke.  Verification included an excellent photograph of the cougar, approximately 25 km north of Floodwood. 
http://www.cougarnet.org/Minn9-07.htm


In January 2008, cougar presence near Milton, Wisconsin was verified when a local trapper and staff from WI DNR documented its snow trail.  This animal was later identified using a genetic sample collected in the field, and processed by the Forest Service's Genetics Laboratory at the Rocky Mountain Research Station in Missoula, Montana.  On April 14, 2008, that cougar was killed in Roscoe Village, a North Side suburb of Chicago, Illinois.  That location is approximately 125 km from Rock County.  http://www.dnr.state.wi.us/org/land/er/mammals/cougar/milton_cougar_timeline.htm

Records verifying cougar occurrence in the 'east' are quite rare.  Thus, interested persons would reasonably question the actual number of individuals involved in a 'spate' of occurrence during an 8 month interval.  Are these records the result of a single dispersing cougar, or were they associated with 2 or 3 dispersers?  If the latter, this could be telling, and we might expect to acquire a number of additional records in the next few years, as young animals disperse from western range.  If a single animal, what period of time will pass before verification of yet another cougar occurs in eastern Minnesota or Wisconsin?

 

See photos below. 
 
Note: Moultrie Game Spy 140 Digital Trail Camera was used.  (Moultrie camera, shutter speed and f stop setting are indicated within data on photograph, 1/5.8 sec, f2.8.)  The I40 camera uses laser sight and an 'infrared flash.'  In general, when a target moves, infrared cameras produce photographs that commonly show motion blur.  This blurring effect is evidenced in several other animal photographs taken by the Schaller's camera.

 

Pictures (starting top left)

1. Deer at night

2. Horse at night

3. The cougar at night

4. Deer at night

5. More deer at night

6. Coyote at night

7. Coyote at night

8. Another deer at night

9. Doe deer in the daytime

10. Mr. Schaller at night

11. Mr. Schaller with dog in daytime