Are There Mountain Lions In Minnesota? Everything You Need To Know

Mountain Lions In Minnesota

What do we really know about these wild cats? They’re elusive, they avoid human beings like the plague and they’re some of the biggest cats found in the Americas. But if you’re hoping to just get a glimpse of a mountain lion (or cougar, puma, or whatever you want to call them) out of the blue, you’re in for a disappointment.

Also, do they reside in the state of Minnesota? Let’s find out!

Are There Mountain Lions In Minnesota?

What do we even mean when we ask whether there are mountain lions in a particular state? Are we asking if there’s a single mountain lion living in the state? Are we asking if any rogue lions wander in from time to time? Or are we really asking if there’s a sizable number of lions living and thriving there?

According to Minnesota wildlife experts, there aren’t any mountain lions in the state of Minnesota (which simply means that they aren’t living in large numbers or breeding there). No baby mountain lions are being born in the state. But solo travelers wandering in from either of the Dakotas? Yes, that happens more than you’d think.

Despite what conspiracy theories you might have heard, this doesn’t mean that the mountain lions are moving back to the eastern states. That kind of migration is very slow. If it happened at all, it would happen over generations and centuries. For now, mountain lions are confined to 14 states out west.

Where Do Mountain Lions Live In Minnesota?

Mountain lions don’t live in Minnesota. Most of the sightings are of young male lions out looking for a mate and they wander around a lot to do it. Since North and South Dakota are so close, the Department of Natural Resources will sometimes find traces of mountain lions in the western counties of Minnesota.

Does this mean that Minnesota doesn’t have great habitats for mountain lions? Not true at all. It’s got a large population of deer which is the mountain lion’s favorite meal. 

The northern parts of the state are pretty isolated and wooded, which lions love (since they aren’t fond of human habitations and all). Mountain lions could quite easily live in Minnesota and they’ve got land where they could do so. But they were eradicated more than a century ago and haven’t lived there in a long time.

Mountain Lion Sightings In Minnesota?

Mountain Lions In Minnesota

Minnesota actually has a pretty high number of confirmed sightings for a state that doesn’t play host to the wild cat. There have been 59 confirmed sightings since 2004 (just 16 of which were from 2020 alone). 

This doesn’t mean 59 mountain lions, by the way. We could be seeing traces of the same cat over and over again. And given how close to each other some of these sightings are, we probably are.

Sightings don’t usually mean eyewitness sightings. DNR examines all reports of mountain lions in Minnesota. What they find most of the time is hair and scat samples or photographs from game cameras. The most solid kind of proof is a dead cat turning up on a highway somewhere, probably hit by a vehicle. But it’s also the saddest kind of evidence.

Most reported sightings turn out to be either house cats or bobcats. When you get excited, your eyes tend to trick you and it’s often hard to make out the size of an animal from a distance or on camera.

Also, Check Our Guide On Mountain Lions In the U.S.

Mountain Lion Attacks In Minnesota?

Mountain lion attacks are practically negligible. They tend to stay away from human habitations and not attack people. 

In 2011, there was a case where a Minnesota man got in deep trouble for shooting a mountain lion. Apparently, he was afraid for the horses and children that lived in the neighborhood and he even said that he didn’t regret killing the lion.

Really, we can allow the numbers to speak for themselves. In the last 100 years, there have only been 126 attacks by mountain lions in the entire country. And only 27 of those were fatal. You’re more likely to get attacked by a dog than a mountain lion.

Can You Shoot a Mountain Lion In Minnesota?

Shooting a mountain lion in Minnesota is a bad idea. These animals are protected wildlife and you could get in trouble for shooting a species that is pretty endangered in the first place. Even if you have a mountain lion killing your livestock (which would be a pretty rare incident in the first place).

Only people with official permits or a licensed officer are allowed to shoot a mountain lion in Minnesota. We would strongly recommend you contact one of them if you’re facing trouble from one of the big cats.

What To Do If You See a Mountain Lion In Minnesota?

Mountain Lions In Minnesota

Well, we’ve established you shouldn’t shoot a mountain lion if you suddenly come across it. But what should you do? Holding your ground, keeping eye contact with the animal, and speaking to it in a loud and firm voice go a long way with these big cats (who aren’t naturally aggressive). 

The mountain lion’s probably just as scared as you are. Make yourself seem intimidating and it’s likely to vanish. Waving your arms over your head and standing at your full height helps. Remember, they’re ambush predators. Direct conflict isn’t their way.

You should also report any sightings to wildlife officials. They’ll want to scope out the site and see if the big cat has left behind any other traces like fur, tracks, or scat.

What Big Cats Live In Minnesota?

None of the big cats (which in the United States only refers to jaguars and mountain lions) live in Minnesota. They were hunted to extinction by humans ages ago. The animals that are usually mistaken for mountain lions in Minnesota? It could be anything from a bobcat, coyote, or wolf to domestic dogs and cats. I’m sure that’s disappointing but it’s the simple truth. 

Also, Read About Mountain Lions in Michigan


And that was everything about the Mountain Lion In Minnesota. I hope this article answers all your questions.

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