A cougar in Woodbury? One resident thought so. So did the officer who responded to the call.
Woodbury received an anonymous call on Jan. 11 about a cougar sighting near the Woodbury Lakes shopping area. The animal was spotted near the south side of the Interstate 94 frontage road.
Justin Gunderson, a community service officer with the Woodbury Police Department, said he got the call about a cougar sighting at about 9 p.m.
"From what I saw it actually appeared to be confirmed," he said.
Gunderson said the animal was about 65-80 yards away when he saw it.
"It moved more like a feline than a K-9," he said.
There have been several coyote sightings in Woodbury of late, Gunderson said, and he assumed that's what the caller spotted.
"I actually chuckled when I responded to the call," he said. "But I can't imagine that somebody thought an obese house cat was a cougar."
Dan Stark, a wolf specialist with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, said he hasn’t heard of any recent reports of cougars in the Twin Cities area. There were some DNR trail cameras that captured photos of cougars this fall, he said, but those were closer to Two Harbors and International Falls.
In December 2009 there were confirmed cougar sightings in Champlain, Vadnais Heights, the Stillwater area and western Wisconsin, Stark said. Scat analysis showed that it was the same animal, he said.
If people see a cougar, Stark suggested that they try to take a photo of the animal and report tracks in the snow to the DNR. There have been no incidents of cougars attacking family pets, Stark said.
“They’re extremely rare and we haven’t been able to document any kind of reproduction going on or any stable population,” he said.
Gunderson said he spoke with a DNR employee after he saw the animal, and human-cougar interaction is "very strange occurrence." The DNR official also told Gunderson that if it became a problem, police have the authority "to dispatch the animal if necessary."
Woodbury Patch asked Gunderson if it was the most exotic animal he's ever seen.
"By far," he responded. "I hunt, but I've never gone after an animal that can hunt me back."