Willmar Cougar Wanted Inside House

The Exotic Animals Next Door

 

Esme Murphy

Reporting

 

 (WCCO) You don’t expect to see a cougar wandering around a Minnesota city, but that’s exactly what happened in Willmar this week.

 

A cougar was captured Tuesday after it roamed Willmar’s streets for most of the morning, coming very close to an elementary school.

 

While these sightings are rare, it seems more and more likely that wild animals could be living in your neighborhood.

 

Authorities believe the cougar captured Tuesday was someone’s domesticated pet. The giveaway came when officers attempted to tranquilize it.

 

"It went up to the door of a house and wanted to get in the house," Willmar Police Officer Tony LaPatka said. "It did this several other times."

 

Experts also say there’s no way a wild cougar would have allowed itself to be held the way authorities held it after it was tranquilized.

 

Keith Streff, an officer and investigator for the Golden Valley Humane Society, says domesticated wildcats are more common than we might realize. He showed pictures of the cats he’s seized in the Twin Cities as proof.

 

"It’s much more common than the general public believes," Streff said.

 

But how can a wild animal end up in someone’s home? It’s not that hard if you use the Internet.

 

WCCO-TV easily found one ad from a West Virginia woman offering to sell a mountain lion for $1,500.

 

We also found ads for servals, an increasingly popular wildcat that is slightly larger than a housecat. Servals sell for around $3,500.

 

"They are a high maintenance, dangerous animal which takes some kind of an experience and background to be able to handle," Streff said.

 

Servals are also illegal. A year ago, Minnesota passed a law that makes home ownership of wildcats and other wild animals against the law.

 

But there is a catch: If you owned the animal before April 2005, you were grandfathered in.

 

Most cities and towns have had laws banning wild animals on the books for years, but rural areas, for the most part, have never had those laws.

 

That means the cougar captured in Willmar might have been someone’s legal, but still very dangerous, pet.

 

Police say someone from the Willmar area called Isanti County’s Wildcat Sanctuary about a month ago, offering to give away a cougar. Officers are hoping that clue, or other tip calls, could lead them to the cougar’s owner.

 

(© MMVI, CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.)

 

For the cats,

 

Carole Baskin, CEO of Big Cat Rescue

an Educational Sanctuary home

to more than 150 big cats

12802 Easy Street Tampa, FL  33625

813.920.4130 fax 885.4457 cell 493.4564

http://www.BigCatRescue.org MakeADifference@BigCatRescue.org

 

Meet our recent mountain lion cub rescues:

 

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