A single digital image captured by a northern Minnesota hunter’s trail camera has created quite a buzz among DNR folks and sportsmen in the region. That’s because it shows—unmistakably—a full-grown mountain lion slinking through the woods on August 20.
And sometimes, they can serve up a big surprise.
Such was the case for Jim Schubitzke of Floodwood, Minn, who placed five cameras in the woods during the summer to monitor deer movement. He put his best camera—the only one producing color photos—near a mineral block he placed to attract deer.
“I was lucky. This was the only one that had a flash on it,” Schubitzke told the Duluth News-Tribune.
There’s no question among the experts that Schubitzke’s camera recorded an extremely rare Minnesota mountain lion, and probably a wild one, to boot.
“In the 25 years I’ve been here, it’s the first one in my work area when someone got a picture,” said Rich Staffon, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources area wildlife manager at Cloquet. “It’s pretty likely that this is a wild mountain lion, not one that someone turned loose.”
The Duluth paper reports that a scarce few cougar photos have been authenticated in the state, including one taken along the Minnesota River a few years ago. Authorities think some of the reported sightings have been cougars released from captivity that have been kept as pets.
Biologists believe most of the mountain lion sightings in northeastern Minnesota are animals roaming in from North Dakota or Canada, where populations are stabile or growing.
“But we have had reports of people seeing kittens,” Staffon said. “So there may be some reproduction. I think it’s safe to say we have a small resident population and some migrants moving through.”
Schubitzke said when he first saw the cougar photo, he was wary about heading back into the woods.
“I was spooked for a couple of days because I was bear-baiting just a couple hundred yards from there,” he said. “Now I’m back to normal.”