By Lindsey Seavert, WCCO-TV

AUSTIN, Minn. (AP) — A group of friends wonders whether a cougar was responsible for injuries suffered by some horses in rural Austin.

The alleged attack happened on April 20 northwest of Austin. Jolene Morrison noticed her horse, Sapphire, had a bad limp, numerous gashes and missing hair. The mare’s 2-year-old colt also was hurt.

Homeowner Glenn Ward, who boards the horses, tells the Austin Daily Herald he’s certain it’s a cougar. Ward says something would have had to jump the fence to get in.

DNR officials and the Freeborn County sheriff’s office haven’t been able to prove what caused the horses’ wounds. The DNR says it’s unlikely it’s a cougar.

Meanwhile, Ward and Morrison are keeping the horses locked in the barn until they think things are safe.

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

Comments (24)
  1. CHERYL BIRD says:


    1. Chris says:

      We have gotten the same smoke from the DNR in our area NW of St Cloud. A couple years ago we had tracks on our property and learned that folks had seen them (mother with younger cat) in the area. The DNR downplayed it, but my neighbor probably still has an impression of the two different tracks. We do know that they (probably a very few travelers) are around!

      1. jacob says:

        you guys don’t know what the hell you are talking about i do on the other hand becase the three horses are mine and my family’s horse. i can tell you the name of all three hosres if you don’t belive me. their names are Desert, Latie And saphira or MaMa as me and my family call them

  2. Mig says:

    A cougar would have killed the colt or the mother due to the ability of braking the horses neck. It seems more like probably a coyote or a wolf but not so much a cougar attack.

    1. Charlie says:

      Mig, We doubt that they could kill a full grown horse like that… remember that these cats feast primarily on smaller animals and an occasional deer… but there is a huge difference between a 150 lb deer and a 800 lb horse! It is even more unlikely a coyote and the existance of a pack of wolves near Austin is even slimmer.

  3. Sarah In Outstate MN says:

    I live about 20 miles west of Austin and I have seen cougars around here. The DNR refuses to believe they are here. My neighbor found a dead one near a stream on his farm, called the DNR and they refused to come out and look at it. They told my neighbor he was mistaking it for a large cat. I saw it myself. It was NOT a large cat. It was a dead cougar.

  4. Dick Harmer says:

    Why is it when something is so obvious it hurts that the DNR always says it not a cougar. It’s like the Wolves in Northern Minnesota about 15yrs. ago you could hear them at night and find prints and even see them but the DNR said it wasn’t wolves. Low and behold 1-2 yrs. later Wolves show up in Northern Minnesota

  5. Keeping it real in Minnesota says:

    Cougars are living all over the state of Minnesota, even in highly populated areas….and the DNR (do not respond) refuses to admit to the continuing issues of these cats…..the reason?…they don’t want to create people to fear them and begin to kill them or set traps for them…..thats going to happen anyway….if I was the owner of the horses and found these cats on my property……they would become nice mounts for my family room.

    1. Jimmy says:

      Amen brother, a coyote is one thing, but a darn cougar scares me plenty. Shoot to kill.

  6. says:

    I live 6 miles from the border of South Dakota, we definetly have cougars here, the farmers have seen them and have proof that they are around. They travel around 60miles is one cougars territory, I believe they are around

  7. Bob Bilger says:

    Yes there is a good Cougar population in MN . No they are not attacking horses . Was very easy for myself to tell just from the short clips on the news that the owner and boarder at the property are mistaken and not very educated about Cougars and or Puma Cat attack patterns . Google my name in association with Cougars and “IF” you want someone with over 18 years experience with Cougars, U S Fish and Wildlife, CA Fish & Game plus USDA License to work with large cats; please contact and I would be glad to help educate everyone ? PS. are also a horse trainer and breeder for over 40 years !

  8. Todd says:

    If I were you foks I would take Bob up on his offer. It sounds like he knows what he is talkiing about (probably more than the DNR). I know there are big cats (cougars) around as they have been on the news. I think it is nice that Bob is offering his services and the folks with the horses should have him down to Austin and have a look. He may be able to shine a light on to whats going on. Hope the horses will be OK. I like horses and I think cougars are beautiful creatures and don’t want either hurt if it can be avoided.

    Thanks again Bob!

  9. Sebastian says:

    Bob may know his stuff and the attack may also not be cougars (ill admit that since there is zero proof) however ive lived 15 miles NW of Austin for nearing 20 years and can promise you there is at least one Cougar living in the area that ive seen at least 6-7 times over the past 5 years or so. I even managed to get a picture of it once as it passed near a barbwire fencepost and measured where its shoulders were (shoulders were at the same height as the lowest line of wire in the picture) which came out at just a little over 2 feet tall.

    Now, im no expert, but im pretty sure there are no other cats anywhere near that large here in southern MN. Ive seen timberwolves in eastern MN north of rochester in the valleys but never anything large enough to even jump at a horse and actually cause damage here in Austin.

    Even if the horse owners dont talk to bob, perhaps the DNR down here should so they can cruise the border between mower/freeborn county where ive seen this thing as often as i have and find one like i do all the time without even trying!

    1. Sarah in Outstate MN says:

      Sebastian, I wonder if the cougar you see living 15 miles NW of Austin and the one I’ve seen living 20 miles west of Austin are the same?

      Also, Whitewater State Park near St. Charles has wolves. They have one on display at the park headquarters because a farmer accidentally shot a wolf near the park thinking it was a coyote. He shot it only 4 or 5 years ago too.

      Bob, Thanks for the information.

  10. Kyle says:

    It seems as though we are all in agreement about the cougar population across the state due to personal experience. Sure, some people may be mistaken, but not everybody. The DNR needs to pull their heads out and start educating people what to do if one were to come face to face with one. For example, don’t turn around and run.

  11. Maia says:

    We’ve lived in Elk River and had horses for over 25 years. This horse’s injuries look like they were caused by another horse or barbed wire, not a large cat. We frequently see coyotes and black bears on our property, yet we’ve never had an animal injured. Don’t blame the DNR, blame mother nature, We destroy these animals habitats, they have to go somewhere. If you don’t like wildlife, don’t live in rual MN.

  12. John W. Noraas says:

    The DNR has adopted a pattern of disinformation regarding cougars in Mn for some reason. In Bemidji area we have had two attacks on people one not even acknowleged in the media and another attributed to a bobcat. Then we have multiple car sightings and are told nope not a cat. Then we have a dead cougar in town that changes sex, weight, and all kinds of magical happenings. Then how many have been filmed on trail cams, police dash cams, news cams, etc. but nope not a cougar.

  13. jeff says:

    i have to agree with maia. i can’t stand the fact that peoples first instinct is to shoot the large cat that most minnesotans would never even see in their entire lifetime. it’s part of the gig living in rural areas. every once and while you need to sacrifice a few animals

    if a cougar was involved with this particular attack it was likely not going for the mare but the colt. the mares scars were probably the result of her protecting it’s offspring.

    it wasn’t all that long ago that some moron in iowa spotted the first cougar there in many years and the first thing he did was call the dnr and ask if he could kill it.

  14. Sebastian says:

    cant blame people for being afraid, particularly if they have small children out in the countryside where they are spotted from time to i in no way or form condone shooting these animals im just saying i completely understand some of the driven fear considering ive got a 2 year old and have seen these things as often as i have. With luck theres only one in the area and it will stay a rare sighting (meaning its staying away from humans).

    Sarah, i would guess most likely due to our proximity its highly likely it would be the same cat. Ive spotted it anywhere from along hwy 251 along a treeline near Maple Island to only a few miles outside of Austin stalking along a hillside about a mile behind the landfill on the back roads.

    I might have to dig up the picture i took and send it into the DNR office just so they can tell me ive been seeing someones overfed tabby for the last 6 years across 2 counties.

  15. Horsekeeping 101 says:

    The conditions that the horses are kept in are terrible. Leaving horses out overnight is asking for trouble, predators present or not. Keeping horses out in muddy patures that are poorly maintained and not expecting injuries like the ones reported in this story is dangerously naive. Sadly it will be the horses that will pay with their lives and health for the ignorance of the people who own them.

    1. jacob says:

      um…. Horsekeeping101 the reason my hoses are kept in that pasture that you say is poorly manitned is because WE ARE WATING FOR THE OTHER PASTURE TO GROW

  16. Becky says:

    Sorry, but those wounds could easily be caused by something else. They don’t look like punctures, either. I’d say her horses got in a scuffle. That old saw is more true than ever: “If you hear hoofbeats, think horses not zebras.” In this case, horses get in scuffles all the time. If they are superficial scrapes and not punctures, they aren’t big cat injuries, sorry.

  17. Jo says:

    Very interesting! DNR denies that its cougar attack but doesn’t know what attacked? Sounds fishy to me! Up in Bemidji, MN people kept asking DNR officials if there were cougars around, DNR denied it too until someone hit one with their car! Where there is one, there is bound to be more!
    And by the way for all the city slickers who don’t know, Wolves hunt in packs, Cougars hunt solo. If it were wolves, one of horses would be dead. In this story, it would have been very hard for any predator (cougar, solo wolf, etc.) to take down a healthy prey (ie. horse, zebra, etc.) colt or mare. But that doesn’t mean that they won’t try, especially if they are hungry. Predators want to eat but conserve energy; an easier kill would have been a sick or older animal.

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