UNDATED - A new study says cougars could thrive in Minnesota. However, the big cats finding their way here remains a big hurdle.

University of Minnesota Professor Michelle LaRue co-authored the study. She says the wooded area of northeastern Minnesota is ideal habitat for cougars - also known as mountain lions.

The only problem with that large patch of habitat is that it's pretty far away from the largest known source of cougars, which would be either in the North Dakota Badlands or in the Black Hills.

LaRue says female cougars won't travel that far.

So what about those cougar sightings we hear about from time to time? LaRue says it's male cougars striking out on their own.

So what happens is a mom has kittens, they grow up, they stay with the mom for about two years. And then they basically get kicked out. And the sub-adult males have to leave otherwise they get beat up by the territorial male. And they have to go somewhere.

The mountain lions seek out rugged, forested areas that are far from humans. She says since 2007 there have been 24 confirmed cougar sightings in Minnesota, most likely all males.