Cougar hit, killed on I-394 after Minneapolis cougar sightings

A cougar was hit and killed on Interstate 394 in Minneapolis early Wednesday morning.

A video, shared by Nathan Kmetz, shows a cougar near the median of westbound I-394 and an SUV with heavy damage to its front. The Minnesota State Patrol told FOX 9 at about 2:15 a.m. on Dec. 6, troopers responded to a single-vehicle crash at I-394 and Theodore Wirth Parkway in Minneapolis. The driver, a 53-year-old man, hit the cougar, then swerved and hit the concrete barrier. He wasn't hurt. 

"The cougar was killed upon impact," the Minnesota State Patrol said. "The DNR has possession of the cougar and the investigation is ongoing."

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources told FOX 9 the cougar was a 2.3-year-old male who had been tagged in northeast Nebraska in 2021 when he was a cub. Cougars typically have a median life expectancy of about 13 years, the San Diego Zoo says

The cougar's body will be taken to the DNR's wildlife research facility in Grand Rapids for a necropsy. 

‘Very rare’ cougar spotted pouncing around Minneapolis

The cougar that died is very likely the same cougar that was spotted wandering around in Minneapolis this week, Dan Stark of the Minnesota DNR told FOX 9. This is based on the proximity and timing of other observations nearby in recent days and the low probability of more than one cougar in the area at the same time.

The City of Minneapolis issued an alert on Tuesday, saying the cougar was recently spotted near Kenwood Park. Officials said there was concern the large cat might be using the Cedar Lake trail system near the Lake of the Isles. Neighbors found tracks in the snow, a full day after the cougar was first spotted on home security footage. 

On Monday, FOX 9 spoke to a woman who captured video of the cougar on her security camera in the Lowry Hill neighborhood early Monday morning. The wild animal was captured on video walking in front of her garage.

Cougar sightings in Minnesota

Since 2004, there has been only one other instance of a cougar captured on camera in Hennepin County. Statewide, there were six recorded cougar observations last year – which could be paw prints, scat, roadkill, or photos – with it likely that some if not all of those were the same cat.

The DNR says it has collected no evidence to suggest there is a breeding population in Minnesota, rather the cats are passing through – most likely originating in the Dakotas.