Updated: 3:49 p.m. | Posted: 9:04 a.m.
An animal captured in a photograph taken in the southern suburbs of the Twin Cities this week is likely a coyote, not a cougar, DNR officials said Friday.
An Eden Prairie resident reported Thursday that the animal’s image was captured on a trail camera earlier this week. Another Eden Prairie resident reported seeing a cougar in mid-August. Two other possible cougar sightings were reported in the city of Bloomington last week.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources says that after several wildlife experts reviewed the image, they agree that the animal is a canine of some sort, with a longer snout and higher and more pointed ears than a cougar’s — indicating it is probably a coyote.
Many previous reports of cougar sightings turn out to be large house cats, bobcats or dogs, according to the DNR. Biologists with the agency doubt that more than a couple of cougars have wandered into the state in the last three decades.
The department’s website says there are no permanent populations of cougars in the state. But it is possible that some of the big cats, usually young males, have wandered into Minnesota. The nearest sustainable populations of cougars are in the Black Hills of South Dakota and the Badlands of North Dakota, according to the agency’s website.
Cougars hunt deer or small animals like rabbits. Authorities advise anyone who encounters a cougar to face the animal directly, talk loudly and make yourself appear larger.
Eden Prairie police are working with the DNR and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to identify the animal.
Cougars are a protected species and may not be shot.