Trail Cam Photo cougar

A trail camera near Purgatory Creek caught an image of a possible cougar at 2:24 p.m. on Aug. 26. The animal is on the left side of the image, near the center horizontally.

An animal spotted by a trail camera near Purgatory Creek is probably a coyote, not a cougar, according to an email from the Eden Prairie Police Department.

"While the image is grainy, the experts agree the animal is a canine of some sort, probably a coyote," according to experts at the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the email says. "The animal in the picture appears to have a longer snout, and the ears are higher and more pointed relative to the head, indicating it is not likely a cougar."

People have reported several sightings of animals believed to be cougars in Eden Prairie and Bloomington in the past two weeks. The first report of an animal in the area came on Aug. 14, when the Eden Prairie Police Department received a message through its Facebook page saying a resident had spotted a cougar at around 8 p.m. near Staring Lake, according to EPPD communications representative Katie Bengtson. Another person contacted EPPD to report a cougar sighting on Aug. 29, the department's Facebook post says.

Since 2010, the police department has received around one call per year about possible cougar or mountain lion sightings in Eden Prairie. In most cases, officers found evidence that indicates the caller mistook another animal for a cougar or mountain lion.

2 sightings in Bloomington

Bloomington police said in a news release on Wednesday, Aug. 21, that residents in the area of 102nd Street and Chicago Avenue have reported seeing a "large cat" on two different occasions over the last three days.

"Both described the cat as looking like a cougar," the news release said, adding no photos were taken of the animal.

In the last 15 years, there have been about 30 confirmed cougar sightings in Minnesota, the release said, citing the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

According to the DNR, there’s little evidence to suggest a breeding population of cougars in Minnesota.

“Even in California, which has a population of more than 5,000 of the big cats, a person is 1,000 times more likely to be struck by lightning than attacked by a cougar,” the DNR’s website says.

If a cougar is spotted or encountered, Bloomington police offered some safety tips for residents before they call 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 right away.
  • Never run or turn your back — sudden movements may provoke an attack.

Eden Teller is the multimedia reporter for Eden Prairie News. She's passionate about fostering productive conversations and empowering communities. When she's not reporting, she can be found reading a book, on a hike or tackling home improvement projects.

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