BLOOMINGTON, Minn. (FOX 9) - Annabelle Augustine had just dropped her kids at her parents' home in Bloomington on Sunday night when something moving on the street caught her eye. She looked, then screamed. It looked at her and she’s certain what she saw.
“And so I yelled for my mom and she’s like what? I’m like there’s a cougar in the street!” she told Fox 9. “It was clearly a cougar. There wasn’t any mistaking the shape of that.”
She called Bloomington Police right away and on Tuesday they got a second call from someone in the same neighborhood near 102nd and Chicago. While unconfirmed it is a cougar, both reports were confident enough that police put out a warning to beware.
“The best thing to do is stay clear of them,” says Bloomington Police Animal Control Coordinator John Carlson. "If you find yourself fairly close, you want to make yourself appear as large as you can. Keep your arms out, make loud noises, be firm in your voice.”
Eden Prairie Police also had a report of a cougar sighting in Starling Lake Park on August 14. The message they received via Facebook said a cyclist saw the animal cross the path, describing it as big and muscular, with a long, black-tipped tail. They’ve had no other reports, but multiple posts on the neighborhoods Next Door app also report seeing what appeared to be a cougar in the same park around the same time.
The Minnesota DNR says cougars are rare in Minnesota, and most reports are mistaken identity, often bobcats, coyotes, wolves or even large light-colored dogs. But some have been confirmed over the years, and likely travel all the way from western South Dakota and continue into Wisconsin.
If this is in fact a cougar, it’s likely traveling along the Minnesota River valley, which runs right next to the Bloomington neighborhood and very close to Eden Prairie’s Staring Lake Park.
Bloomington Police urge caution if you see what you believe to be a cougar, but also hope someone can snap a picture to confirm it is a cougar and whether it’s male or female.
And make sure you report it right away, which is exactly what Annabelle did.
“I was pretty scared,” she said. “it was pretty dark so I didn’t know if it was going to turn around and come after me or I didn’t know what to do. So I just yelled for my mom and my mom was like call 911 so that’s what I did.”
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources says that in the last 15 years, there have only been about 30 cougar sightings across the state.
If a cougar is sighted or encountered, residents are asked to follow the below safety tips before calling police:
- Keep calm
- Make yourself look as large as possible and back away slowly, keeping the cougar in view, and allowing a clear exit for the cougar
- Pick up children and small pets immediately
- Never run or turn your back; sudden movements may provoke an attack