DULUTH, Minn. (AP) — Minnesota Department of Transportation employee Christopher Smith was just doing his job — clearing debris on the sidewalk near the center of the Bong Bridge connecting Duluth and Superior, Wis., about 1 p.m. Tuesday.
And then he heard the meowing.
He looked over the edge to find a cat on a pier cap, a concrete ledge of sorts, about 20 feet down from the bridge.
The cat was trapped about 80 to 90 feet above the water of St. Louis Bay without a way to come back up, according to John Bray, spokesman for MnDOT.
After Smith tried unsuccessfully to phone his co-worker Gary Wright, who was operating a sweeper on the bridge, he called for help.
Seeing a Superior police car parked near Smith got Wright’s attention and he went to check on his co-worker.
He found Superior police officer Bradley Esler and Smith trying to figure out what to do. The first plan was to dangle a nylon strap down to the cat to see if it would try to climb aboard.
“Our thought was we could hopefully put the strap down there and the cat could self-rescue,” Wright said.
The cat was clearly unaware of their plan, Wright said, and although the feline rubbed up against the strap a few times and seemed to calm down somewhat, the strap wasn’t going to cut it.
Then Wright remembered a safety harness bag he had inside his truck. The trio quickly hatched another plan to run the strap through the handles and then propped the bag open with a piece of wood from the sidewalk.
Smith’s lunch — a venison burger — was also placed in the bag to entice the cat.
“It smelled good,” Wright said.
Wright then lowered the bag.
“Honestly, as soon as the bag touched down on that pier cap, the cat jumped in it and I pulled as hard as I could to close the bag and pulled it up,” he said.
The cat was so busy wolfing down the burger, he didn’t even seem to notice what was happening, Wright said.
“I’m thinking the cat had been down there for some time,” he said.
Once the cat was out of the bag, he started purring right away. It was so friendly, both Smith and Esler talked about ultimately keeping it.
A Humane Society representative from the Animal Rescue Federation in Superior took the cat from the scene and the organization later said they believe the cat is a 1 1/2 -year-old Manx, a breed known for little to no tail and for its fondness for people.
“I am interested in keeping the cat,” Esler said. “I went to visit it (on Thursday) and he’s just a happy camper, jumping from person to person. I think he knows it was almost lights out.”
Esler also said he’d like to find the person who he thinks “pitched it over the side” of the bridge.
“It would really tick you off if you would have seen it down there,” he said.
Wright concurs with Esler’s assessment of what happened.
“We found it hard to believe the cat got down there on its own,” he said.
The cat will remain at the Animal Rescue Federation for seven days in case the owner comes to claim him, Esler said. He said after that time he will talk with Smith to see if he’s still interested in keeping the animal. Otherwise, Esler would like to take him home to see if he would mesh with the cat already living there.
“It will be up to Sophie — the other pound kitty — at that point,” he said. “I was hoping this cat was a girl so I could name her Bridge-ette. But this cat’s lucky for many reasons, so maybe Lucky.”
(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)