Twin Cities cougar went on lovelorn Wisconsin walkabout

Remember that cougar that kept popping up in Twin Cities suburbs last winter, and then crossed the St. Croix and vanished into Wisconsin? Turns out the big cat went on a walkabout hundreds of miles long in Wisconsin looking for a mate.

Wisconsin DNR trackers started keeping tabs on the animal by examining tracks, droppings and DNA evidence, and found it covered an awful lot of ground -- check out this map at the PiPress.

At one point it came pretty close to the American Birkebiner cross country ski race, but evidently didn't have a taste for skinny humans sheathed in Lycra.

"These cats are covering a lot of distance in a short amount of time," Minnesota DNR predator expert Dan Stark told the PiPress. "That leads us to believe that these are dispersing animals coming from the west and they are on the move in search of females. They will stay in a location for a while if there is prey, but unless they find a mate, they will keep roaming."

The six-feet-long beast was first spotted by two Champlin cops coming off the night shift last December as it crossed Highway 169. A dashboard camera in the officers' car captured the cougar as it appeared in their squad car's headlights before wandering down into the woods along the Mississippi River.

Then it was spotted in Vadnais Heights, near the Interstate 35E/694 junction, about 10 miles from downtown St. Paul. A few weeks later, Stillwater police said they found cougar tracks in different places around town after taking two separate calls from residents.

Wisconsin DNR experts picked up the trail from there.

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