A deer found dead in Marshall County may be the doing of a wild predator, but wildlife biologists now say it was not killed by a cougar. Department of Natural Resources spokesman Mick Klemesrud says investigators asked their counterparts in other states what they find when a big cat’s left traces of its prey.
He says they sought advice and sent photos to experts “out west” — in Wyoming, South Dakota, and other states with known cougar populations. Based in the pictures and descriptions of the kill from D-N-R biologists, they advise the kill is likely the work of a coyote or dog, not a mountain lion.
Experts cited factors from the way the deer was eaten — the “feeding pattern” — to the marks on the body, in unanimously concluding it wasn’t the work of a mountain lion. He says a mountain lion that drags down a deer doesn’t leave a lot of claw marks — it tends to make a clean bite to the neck. This deer had marks likely caused by running into a tree or fence.
Klemesrud says another clue was the way some wild predator fed on the deer. Mountain lions tend to “dress open a deer,” he says, tearing open the belly and eating that part of the carcass first, whereas a dog or coyote will begin at the rump. That was the pattern in the deer found in Marshall County and Klemesrud says they’ve concluded likely the killer was a coyote or a dog.