Minnesota man charged with shooting cougar

Published On: Jan 27 2012 04:26:35 PM CST   Updated On: Jan 27 2012 04:35:16 PM CST

(Minnesota DNR Press Release)

Charges have been filed today by the Jackson County attorney's office against a Jackson County man in southwestern Minnesota for allegedly shooting a cougar on Nov. 27, 2011, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

Daniel Hamman, 26, was charged by citation with shooting a protected animal.

Hamman allegedly shot the cougar after being contacted by a neighbor, who saw the cat run from a rural grove of trees into a culvert. The cougar was shot as it flushed from the culvert.

Maximum penalties Hamman could face include a fine up to $1,000 and up to 90 days in jail.The DNR has filed an affidavit of restitution requesting the court to order Hamman to pay $1,000 to the state for the cougar. Criminal charges are not evidence of guilt. A defendant/suspect is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.The cougar shot in Jackson County was a 125-pound male, estimated to be one to three years old. The DNR conducted a necropsy of the cougar to assess the condition of the animal, look for signs of captivity and collect additional samples to help determine the origin of the animal. No obvious signs of captivity were present such as being declawed, exhibiting excessive pad wear, or having tattoos or microchips. Samples have been submitted to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Wildlife Forensics Lab in Missoula, Mont., to do a DNA analysis; results are pending. The DNR plans to have the cougar mounted and used for educational purposes.

Since 2007, the DNR has confirmed 14 cougar sightings across the state. Eleven have been from trail cameras or video. One was road killed, one was found dead and one was shot. Dozens of other, unconfirmed sightings have also been reported.

Why might cougars show up in Minnesota? Cougars are solitary, roaming animals. As young males reach maturity, they begin to look for new territory and will travel considerable distances. The timing of many of Minnesota's verified cougar sightings (mid- 2000s and forward) is not unexpected given the somewhat rapid increase in the cougar population in the western Dakotas that began in the mid-1990s. Extensive research in the Black Hills has documented the changing cougar dynamics that typically lead to increased dispersal of young males.

Although verifications have increased, evidence of cougars in Minnesota remains extremely rare.

Cougars are protected animals in Minnesota. State statute makes it illegal for a citizen to kill a cougar in most circumstances. Minnesotans can kill a cougar if a life threatening situation arises. Public safety officials are authorized to kill a cougar to protect public safety. If a cougar poses an immediate threat to public safety, a DNR conservation officer or local law enforcement person should be contacted as soon as possible.

Minnesota Statutes section 97A.301, Subdivision 1(1) states: Misdemeanor. Unless a different penalty is prescribed, a person is guilty of a misdemeanor if that person: (1) takes, buys, sells, transports or possesses a wild animal in violation of the game and fish laws.

According to Minnesota Statutes section 97B.641, there is no open season for cougars in the state of Minnesota.