Dodge Center, located 15 miles west of Rochester in southern Minnesota, had one heckuva day Tuesday.
Not only did severe storms drop hailstones the size of baseballs on the town of 2,700 people, but later in the day the Dodge County Sheriff’s Office confirmed multiple reports of a cougar wandering the city.
The first sighting of the wildcat was in a back yard north of Highway Street in the Airport Drive area – the northeast side of town – with nearby residents saying they’ve seen the cougar over the past few days.
“Deputies searched the area tonight and located the cougar in the field north of North Street and Airport Drive,” the sheriff’s office said just before midnight. “The Deputy watched the cougar with binoculars as it retreated further into the field, and notified the Minnesota DNR of the sighting.”
There’s no description for how big the cougar is, but the sheriff’s office is warning residents that even though most cougars prefer to avoid confrontation, “people should remain cautious and vigilant.”
“We recommend extra caution while using the parks and trails in that area and refrain from being alone in those areas for now,” the sheriff’s office says.
“Cougars are typically most active from dusk to dawn, although they sometimes travel and hunt during the day and prey on local species such as deer, rabbits, coyotes, small rodents and occasionally pets and livestock.”
Here’s what the sheriff’s office recommends a person do if they come into contact with a cougar:
“Face the cougar directly, raise your arms to make yourself appear larger and speak loudly and firmly. This behavior is in direct conflict with a cougar’s tendency to hunt by stalking and attacking from ambush. Do not run, crouch or lay on the ground. If it attacks, fight back aggressively. Pick up small children immediately. Cougars often will retreat if given the opportunity. Always leave the animal an escape route.”
Cougars are a protected species and it’s illegal to shoot them.
Anyone who sees the cougar is asked to immediately call 911 and report it.
Or, as they say in Gunsmoke, it might be time to “get outta’ Dodge.”