Officers were dispatched to the intersection of Southeast Main and Chisum Streets, around 8 p.m. Wednesday, where a member of the public had spotted a cougar, or mountain lion. The officer located the animal walking near Pecos Elementary, 600 E. Hobbs St. Additional officers and deputies from the Chaves County Sheriff’s Office joined in the search. The cougar wandered through a yard and jumped the fence. He became cornered and New Mexico Game and Fish recorded photographs where he pawed at the entrance to the school.
According to the police report, the big cat then turned, faced the officers, taking an aggressive stance, and charged at the officers. Law enforcement shot and killed the cougar. New Mexico Game and Fish Lt. Mike Berry said he had no reason to doubt the official reports.
“If he had turned toward the officers rather than run away, then he had little fear of people.”
Spring River Zoo issued a release saying the cougar was not one of theirs. Cougars can range from 70 to 600 miles. Berry explained that young males often move around in search of territory. Berry said Roswell was close to a number of possible migration routes along the Hondo and Pecos Rivers and arroyos.
During the post mortem examination, Berry pointed to the cracked pads on the paws which suggested the cougar had travelled a distance to get to Roswell.
The cougar weighed in at 113 pounds and was estimated at 6 to 7-feet long, including tail.
“The normal weight is between 115 and 150. He was obviously a subadult male, in fair shape,” said Berry.
Size, though, varies by location. Cougars in the south tend to be smaller than those in the north. Females run between 100 and 120 pounds while full adult males average between 150 to 160 pounds. The largest cougar ever recorded was found in Arizona. It weighed 275 pounds.
Darrell Weybright of New Mexico Game and Fish Department Cougar Management program in Santa Fe said overall, the state policy for both bears and cougars that move into a populated area is to shoot rather than tranquilize. “Bears are omnivores, but cougars are strictly predatory, creating a greater hazard for human population, livestock and pets.”
Weybright said that cougars were found primarily in the southwest New Mexico, but the southeast portion of the state also has a population, especially in the Sacramento Mountains and to a lesser extent in the Guadalupes.
“Could we have tranquilized it?” asked Berry. “Yes. Would we have liked to tranquilize it? Yes, but in a town environment, after dark, we would have had trouble seeing it and treeing it. The officer was lucky to find it at all. We have had four large predators come to Roswell in the last eight years, two bears and two mountain lions. We tranquilized and relocated three of them,” said Berry.
Lt. Britt Snyder, of the Sheriff’s Office, told the Daily Record that they did not know who had actually killed the cougar. He confirmed the incident occurred around 8 p.m.
Snyder noted that if it had not been raining, children would have been outside playing and people walking around. “It’s sad when we have to kill a beautiful animal like that, but the safety of the public is paramount.”