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Mountain lion in Lakewood? Not likely

Some residents in Lakewood Township say they've seen and heard what they think is a mountain lion roaming through the area. Mountain lions, also called cougars, are "extremely rare" in this area, according to Chris Balzer, assistant wildlife mana...

Some residents in Lakewood Township say they've seen and heard what they think is a mountain lion roaming through the area.

Mountain lions, also called cougars, are "extremely rare" in this area, according to Chris Balzer, assistant wildlife manager at the Cloquet Department of Natural Resources office, but one's presence in Lakewood Township isn't inconceivable.

Lakewood resident GlenErnest said he's been hearing what he thinks must be a mountain lion roaring in the early morning for about three months.

"It sounds like how a cat meows, but much deeper," Ernest said. "You can tell it's larger than a cat."

Ernest, who has three kids between ages 1 and 12, said whatever is making those noises makes him uneasy.

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"It's a scary feeling," he said. "You can't let the kids out of your sight now."

If there is a mountain lion in the area, Balzer said it wouldn't pose an immediate threat to residents.

"I wouldn't be any more afraid of a mountain lion than I would of a bear or a wolf, and we live with those all the time," he said. "Any large animal, you've got to treat with respect and keep your distance."

Balzer said he hasn't heard of a mountain lion in Lakewood Township.

The region does offer some of the things a mountain lion might look for, though, such as forest cover and abundant deer -- a favorite prey, he said.

Balzer said mountain lions are "extremely rare" and the nearest breeding population probably is in South Dakota's Black Hills or Badlands.

That would mean a mountain lion would have to roam hundreds of miles to arrive in the Twin Ports region.

"It's a long ways away, but they could move that far," he said.

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The DNR office in Cloquet gets about 20 calls of suspected mountain lions each year.

"We do get a number of reports," Balzer said. "Some of them have checked out with tracks and stuff."

There have been several sightings of mountain lions in the Duluth area over the past decade.

In July 2003, two hikers thought they saw a mountain lion on the Munger Trail.

That same year, two joggers saw what they said looked like three mountain lions one June morning in Chester Bowl.

Residents of Rice Lake Township reported a mountain lion near their homes in 1998. Rae Polzin said she had a mountain lion come into her yard that year, before it was chased away by her dogs. She hasn't seen it again.

"It was a once-in-a-lifetime thing," she said.

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