After tracking a whitetail doe one of them shot yesterday morning, two hunters in northeastern Minnesota were not the first to find the expired deer.
Ted Kline and hunting partner Ron Smith waited for a few minutes before heading out to retrieve the deer on Kline’s property along the Artichoke River, about 25 miles northwest of Duluth. When they found the deer, they were surprised to discover a pair of mountain lions tearing flesh from the carcass.
“When we got there they had both been eating on it. We scared them off, but they kept circling us. They didn’t want to leave,” Kline told the Duluth News-Tribune.
Kline says he has no doubt the animals were puma concolor. He said they had long tails, were about three feet in length and definitely were not bobcats, wolves or coyotes.
The hunters said they phoned a third friend for assistance so that two men could drag the deer while a third could watch for the mountain lions, with a ready rifle, just in case.
“The chunks they tore off that doe were huge. The claw marks were huge,” Kline told the newspaper.
He estimated the cougars ate about a third of the deer meat in the time span between shooting and recovery, around 30 minutes.
Cougar sightings are not uncommon in far-northern Minnesota, though it is quite unusual to see two lions together in any natural setting, as they are mostly solitary hunters.
John Erb, a forest wildlife biologist for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, said his department receives about 200 reports of cougar sightings each year, but confirmations—from photos, tracks or scat—are uncommon.
“We had two confirmed last year, including one near Floodwood…but they are very, very rare,” Erb told the News-Tribune. “And for there to be two cougars together in one spot, that would be the first time in Minnesota probably in 75 years.”