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Mountain lion leaves trail of rumors in Devils Lake

The clearest trail camera image of the mountain lion on the west side of Six-Mile Bay of Devils Lake was taken as the cat crossed a trail, its head and ears erect as if keeping tabs on its surroundings.1 / 2
A domestic cat hunkered by a patch of pumpkins keeps a watchful eye on a mountain lion captured on a landowner's trail camera Nov. 18 on the west side of Six-Mile Bay on Devils Lake.2 / 2

DEVILS LAKE, N.D.—Authorities in Devils Lake say they haven't actually seen the mountain lion captured on a landowner's trail cameras three weeks ago on the west side of Six-Mile Bay, but there's no question the photos are legit as rumors about the cat continue to fly.

"I'm pretty sure we have a cat here—or had," said Paul Freeman, northeast district enforcement supervisor for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department in Devils Lake. "It has been quite some time. Is it still around? It's certainly possible."

Jerry Ratzlaff of Devils Lake, who owns the trail cameras and the land on which the mountain lion was photographed three times in the wee hours of Nov. 18 and Nov. 19, said the photos came from two different sites on his property.

The first photo, time-stamped at 3:48 a.m. Nov. 18, shows the cat standing next to a trail with tire tracks in the snow. Less than an hour later, the cat was captured on trail cam next to a salt block and several pumpkins.

Its head is partially obscured by the pumpkins as a gray farm cat on the near side of the pumpkins looks warily at its larger relative.

The lion was back in the pumpkins early the morning of Nov. 19, when it again was caught on the trail camera. That's the last he's seen of the lion, Ratzlaff said.

There have been several rumored sightings of the lion around Devils Lake in recent weeks, including one near Ed's Bait Shop along state Highway 20, but none have been confirmed, said Lt. Jim Frank of the Devils Lake Police Department.

There's no mistaking the cat in the trail cam photos, though, he said.

"This is the first one that I can think of in recent memory that's actually been confirmed as a cat," Frank said. "The rest of them have been a lot of rumors through the years, but this one's pretty real."

Mountain lions generally are secretive animals that shy away from people unless cornered, but given the recent reports and rumored sightings, officers are going to be more vigilant about making sure the cat doesn't wander into city limits, Frank said.

Anyone encountering the cat or others like it in city limits should avoid taking matters into their own hands, he said.

"They should notify law enforcement immediately" and call 911, Frank said. "If this cat is in town, we need to deal with it immediately."

Mountain lion season in Zone 2, the part of the state outside the animal's traditional territory in western North Dakota, is open through March 31, and anyone with a furbearer license can legally take an animal with firearm or archery equipment, Freeman said.

Brad Dokken

Brad Dokken is a reporter and editor of the Herald's Sunday Northland Outdoors pages. Dokken joined the Herald company in November 1985 as a copy editor for Agweek magazine and joined the Herald staff in 1989. He worked as a copy editor in the features and news departments before becoming outdoors editor in 1998.  A Roseau, Minn., native, Dokken is a graduate of Bemidji State University. 

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