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Rare cougar kill in Minnesota

ROUND LAKE, Minn - Many people have heard about catching a tiger by the tail, but not many get to experience catching a cougar in their headlights.

Bruce Ihlen got one of the biggest surprises of his life Sunday night when he was finishing up chores at his brother's Round Lake Township farm around 6:30 p.m.

Round Lake is near the Iowa and South Dakota borders in southwest Minnesota.

"I came out and saw a cougar come out of the grove and run into the ditch," Ihlen said. "Then it went into the culvert."

According to the St. Paul Pioneer Press, it's believed to be the first "citizen shooting" of a mountain lion in modern history in Minnesota.

Ihlen had his vehicle lights trained on the spot where the cougar had entered the culvert. He called a neighbor and the two of them chased the big cat out of hiding.

"Then Daniel (Hamman) shot him," Ihlen said.

Ihlen said he has never seen a cougar in the area before, nor had Hamman.

"It was kind of a freak deal," he admitted.

His brother-in-law put the cat in a cooler, and the following day the Department of Natural Resources was contacted.

"In checking around, it was recommended we call the DNR," Ihlen said. "They came out Monday morning and took him. They have him now."

Even though the cougar was heading away from Ihlen when he spotted it, he said the encounter was still a little too close for comfort for him.

"It was just a weird thing that I caught him in my headlights," he said.

Cougars, which have increasingly been spotted in northern Minnesota and even the Twin Cities metro area, have strong protections in Minnesota.

Unlike North Dakota, South Dakota and Iowa, Minnesota has no hunting season on cougars. Even if a lion which is threatening or even attacking livestock, that is not justification for killing one under Minnesota law.

In this case, however, DNR officials say the shooter apparently felt threatened by the big cat.

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services