BEST SURPRISE APPEARANCE OF UNLIKELY FAUNA - 2000
In 1998, an old female lake sturgeon washed up on the shores of Lake Harriet. No one knew that sturgeon, a prehistoric and pollution-sensitive species, still lived in Lake Harriet, yet here it was--six feet and 105 pounds of evidence that nature retains the power to surprise. The sturgeon's appearance seemed unlikely to be topped anytime soon. But then last September, an unusually large cat was spotted roaming the perimeter of the Mall of America. Until the mid-Nineties, conventional wisdom held that big felines hadn't set paw in the state since the turn of the century. But the sighting in Bloomington, along with an earlier one near the Fingerhut warehouse in Plymouth, strongly suggested that mountain lions are back. Both a Department of Natural Resources game warden and a local animal control officer clearly identified the cat, and officials theorized that it had accidentally wandered up to the mall while hunting in the Minnesota River Valley. Of course, we prefer to think the cougar had selected the mall in a symbolic statement--a statement of defiance to sprawl and human arrogance, perhaps with an eye toward scaring the shit out of any shopper who fails to recognize the beauty in the animal's return.