The Olmsted County Sheriff's Department says a cougar may have attacked a Great Dane in Rochester over the weekend.
The owners of the 200-pound dog, who was named Boomer, found him Saturday morning with his stomach ripped open and large bite wounds on his backside, ABC 6 reports.
“There was just blood all over, and I looked in my bed and there sat my dog sitting up, but all his intestines and guts were outside on the bed right next to him,” Boomer's owner, Alex Endrizzi, told WCCO, who had to "put him out of his misery."
Endrizzi said the culprit had to get past a 5-foot electric fence and one of the family's other Great Danes, who suffered several gashes to his head, WCCO says.
Authorities are trying to figure out what could have attacked Boomer. The sheriff's office thinks it could have been a cougar, because residents have reported seeing them in the area and cougar tracks were spotted in the sand at the nearby Hadley Creek Golf Learning Center, according to reports.
However, officials at the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources are skeptical.
"We get a number of reports of people sighting mountain lions or cougars, or their tracks. ... There's been no documentation yet to support (these) sightings – no photos," Don Nelson, a wildlife supervisor for the DNR, told the Rochester Post Bulletin.
Nelson told the newspaper that typically animal tracks end up being from a large dog or a coyote, not a cougar. He added that he saw photos showing the attack on Boomer and "there was nothing in those photos that I could see that would diagnose that it was a mountain lion that had attacked the dog."
Until he gets photographic evidence, Nelson said, he doesn't believe a cougar was behind the attack and says it could have been a large dog.
The DNR says cougars are not common in the area. DNR biologists don't believe there have been more than a couple wandering cougars in Minnesota at one time in the last 30 years, according to the DNR's website, although cougar sightings have increased in the Midwest in recent years.
If it does end up being a cougar, the sheriff's office and the DNR will work together to relocate the animal, reports say. In the meantime, the sheriff's office is telling residents to contact them immediately if they think they spot a cougar, and if it's safe to do so, snap a photo of the animal.
The DNR's website says that if someone comes face-to-face with one of the wild cats they should raise their arms in the air to appear larger and speak loudly and firmly, but don't run away or crouch on the ground. Officials also say not to shoot the animal, even if livestock or pets are threatened, because cougars are a protected species and may only be killed by a person licensed to do so.