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Big Cat Caught
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pvasquez
Submitted By: pvasquez on March 18, 2010
About the Video: By Jessica Dyer
Journal Northern Bureau

SANTA FE — When Monica Apodaca heard a mountain lion had been seen prowling Santa Fe on Tuesday, she worried about her husband, who has been working outdoors in the area of the sightings.

"I told him to be careful," Apodaca said.

As it turns out, he was probably safer at work than home.

A 150-pound mature male mountain lion was found and captured in the Apodacas' backyard near Siringo Road and Calle Ensenada, just a few blocks from Santa Fe High School, around 11 a.m. Wednesday.

With the help of Santa Fe police and Santa Fe Animal Services, New Mexico Game and Fish representatives were able to surround the cougar after it climbed an apple tree.

They shot two darts into the animal, then waited another 15 minutes as the cougar grew drowsy in the tree, slowly flicking its tail back and forth.

It eventually flopped safely to the ground.

Officers determined it was the same creature spotted Tuesday morning in another densely populated area about two miles north.

The irony wasn't lost on Monica Apodaca, whose husband had already left for the day when the mountain lion was discovered in the couple's apple tree.

"Isn't that funny?" she said. "I warned him to be careful."

Apodaca was by herself around 10 a.m. when barking dogs alerted her to the scene outside her house. By the time she realized what was happening, officers from several agencies had already arrived.

Though its tan fur helped it blend in among the blossom-free apple tree branches, the cougar managed to cause quite a stir. Dogs in the neighborhood yapped, Santa Fe police diverted traffic from Siringo Road and at least one jogging passer-by stopped to inquire about the scene.

Robert Livingston, an assistant chief with Game and Fish, said the captured animal is a match for the one spied a day earlier near the intersection of Cordova Road and Don Gaspar Avenue.

The mountain lion seen Tuesday had a minor injury to his right front paw, leaving blood spots in its tracks. The captured cougar also had an injured right front toe, he said.

"We're 100 percent confident this is the same (mountain lion)," Livingston said, shortly after the cougar had been loaded safely into the bed of a pickup truck.

Finding the cougar in a tree was fortuitous, Livingston said. An animal has several minutes of "escape time" before the drugged darts take effect, but this particular creature seemed content to sit on its perch.

"In that time, he could have taken off," Livingston said. "But because he was in a tree, he felt safe, so he decided to stay in the tree, and that's typical for mountain lions."

It took four men to haul the sleeping cat from the Apodacas' backyard into the truck, where it lay peacefully with its eyes open and tongue out.

The tranquilizers typically wear off within one to three hours, Livingston said.

Game and Fish spokesman Dan Williams said a vet checked out the cougar shortly after capture. The lion was subsequently released in the Carson National Forest on Wednesday afternoon.

"Hopefully, we'll never see it again," Williams said.

Ernesto Lujan lives next door to the Apodacas and awoke to the commotion. Officers knocked on his window and told him to put his dogs inside.

Lujan said the mountain lion's perch was about 10 feet from his window, and he watched the entire episode unfold.
"I think more of them (mountain lions) should come by. It brings the excitement over," Lujan said. "It was good to look at the cat up close instead of at the zoo."

Game and Fish officials had earlier speculated that the cougar was familiar with the city and may have been in the metropolitan area for a while. When Game and Fish officers spotted it about 1 1/2 miles south of the Plaza on Tuesday, they found new tracks and some that could be days old.

Recent weather may be partly to blame for the cougar's city adventure. Heavy snowfall in the mountains sends deer and elk to lower elevations, and mountain lions tend to follow their prey.
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Comments (1)
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Dee commented on April 03, 2010
Well done to all concerned for capturing and releasing this mountain lion. It is heartening to hear one being captured instead of being shot. This is a great outcome. Lessons can be learned from the success of this for future encounters in this State and others TRANQUALIZE, CAPTURE AND RELEASE.
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