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Trail cameras record possible cougar sightings in Elk River, Appleton

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A map of cougar sightings in Minnesota.
There have been three possible cougar sightings in Minnesota this month. The DNR says the animals are rare in this state, but that there have been likely sightings all over Minnesota, and more than 30 of them in the last 15 years.
Courtesy of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources

A week after a sheriff's deputy in southern Minnesota spotted a mountain lion near Rochester, authorities in two other communities say the big cats may have been seen there.

Police in Elk River posted a resident alert to their Facebook page, after they received two photos that appeared to show a cougar on the west side of the city near the Mississippi River. The photos were taken by an automatic trail camera.

Police in Appleton also posted a night vision trail camera photo of what appears to be a very large cat walking on a road outside that western Minnesota city. The post noted that the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources reviewed the footage and was not able to confirm if it was a mountain lion.

Neither of the latest instances had any accompanying live sightings of the cats. The DNR said there are likely only a couple of the animals in the state at any time and the animals tend to be wanderers from the western Dakotas, rather than a breeding population.

But the agency said sightings may be increasing and there were three plausible remote camera sightings last year, near Mora and near Redwood Falls. The DNR said many reports of cougars are cases of mistaken animal identification.

The latest sightings come after the Dodge County Sheriff's Office said it had received multiple reports of big cat sightings in Dodge Center, west of Rochester. A deputy responding to a report saw the animal through binoculars, but it was too far away to take a picture, according to Sheriff Scott Rose.

State wildlife officials say cougars pose much less of a threat to people than lightning, and that attacks on people are extremely rare even in California, where an estimated 5,000 cougars live.

You can read more about cougars in Minnesota here.