Several Las Cruces area residents have reported seeing large predatory cats in residential neighborhoods during the last few weeks.
The sightings leave some cause for concern since large cats have been known to meander into residential areas and sometimes prey on domesticated dogs and cats.
Large cats – primarily mountain lions and bobcats – live in every county in New Mexico and have a wide variety of habitats. They tend to prefer mountainous, rocky or forested areas, but predatory cats have been known to venture into residential neighborhoods during times of drought and when food is scarce at higher elevations.
As big cats search for food sources, they gravitate to areas where vegetation is plentiful for their accustomed prey: mice, rabbits, squirrel, racoons, deer and even coyotes. Near cities, big cats tend to prefer grassy areas, parks and golf courses where their prey might be plentiful.
Although big cats have been seen during the daytime, they tend to hunt between dusk and dawn. Those who walk or exercise during the early-morning and evening hours should be aware of the potential dangers a wild animal can present.
Pet owners are encouraged to keep their dogs and cats indoors when it’s dark outside. No pet food should be left outdoors as doing so could attract unwanted guests.
Anyone who sees a predatory cat should refrain from approaching, feeding or causing it harm. Big cats are timid animals and usually keep their distance from people.
If threatened by a big cat, call the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish at 1-888-248-6866 or Las Cruces Animal Control at (575) 526-0795.