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DNR confirms mountain lion killed near Bemidji

Biologists for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources have confirmed that an animal hit and killed Friday night by a motorist near Bemidji was a mountain lion.

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Beltrami County (Minn.) Sheriff's Deputy Lee Anderson shows a mountain lion that was struck and killed Sept. 18 on Carr Lake Road. (Photo courtesy Beltrami County Sheriff's Office)

Biologists for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources have confirmed that an animal hit and killed Friday night by a motorist near Bemidji was a mountain lion.

Authorities said the driver hit the cat about 10:40 p.m. Friday on the Schoolcraft Bridge, which crosses the Schoolcraft River near the Carr Lake Road on the south side of Bemidji.

Blane Klemek, assistant area wildlife manager for the DNR in Bemidji, said the cat was a sub-adult male 2 to 2½ years old and weighing an estimated 110 pounds. The DNR initially reported the cat was female.

Klemek was among the DNR staff to confirm the animal was a mountain lion. He said the lion appeared to have been in good health before it was hit. There was no evidence of ear tags, a collar or other markings to suggest the cougar had escaped from captivity, he said, and the cat hadn't been declawed.

"All signs seem to indicate that this particular animal was indeed wild but we don't know that for sure," Klemek said.

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Officers responding to the incident initially transported the cougar to the Beltrami County Sheriff's Department, and the animal was transferred to the DNR's regional wildlife office in Bemidji on Saturday morning.

Monday morning, the cat was taken to the DNR's forest wildlife research office in Grand Rapids, Minn. Klemek said researchers in Grand Rapids will perform a necropsy on the cat, checking its stomach contents to see what it had been eating and testing the animal for disease, among other things.

Researchers in Grand Rapids also will check the mountain lion for parasites, Klemek said. That can be useful information, he said, because cats in captivity will have different parasites than those in the wild.

Klemek said thorough analysis of the mountain lion likely won't happen before next week. There's also a chance the cat will be sent to the University of Minnesota veterinary lab for even more extensive testing, he said.

Ultimately, he said, the DNR would like to have the mountain lion mounted for educational purposes.

Klemek said the DNR frequently gets calls from people reporting mountain lion sightings, but the cat killed Friday night was the first to be confirmed in his tenure.

Still, he said there have been confirmed reports elsewhere, including a radio-collared mountain lion that passed through the Roseau River Wildlife Management Area in northwestern Minnesota in January 2005 after being spotted west of Grand Forks about a month earlier.

Most times, Klemek said, confirmed reports tend to be young males that wander east from the Badlands or the Black Hills of South Dakota.

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"The DNR does not deny the fact that lions occur from time to time, but what's not known is if there's a breeding population in the state," Klemek said. "We certainly have the habitat in northern Minnesota. But they tend to require a much broader area for their territories than what Minnesota can offer."

Dokken reports on outdoors. Reach him at (701) 780-1148; (800) 477-6572, ext. 148; or send e-mail to bdokken@gfherald.com .

Brad Dokken joined the Herald company in November 1985 as a copy editor for Agweek magazine and has been the Grand Forks Herald's outdoors editor since 1998.

Besides his role as an outdoors writer, Dokken has an extensive background in northwest Minnesota and Canadian border issues and provides occasional coverage on those topics.

Reach him at bdokken@gfherald.com, by phone at (701) 780-1148 or on Twitter at @gfhoutdoor.
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