Mountain lions are solitary animals. Because they are rarely observed by people—even in their natural habitat—it was a huge surprise when a mountain lion showed up in downtown El Paso. The lion that authorities first had tried to tranquilize led law enforcement officers, a Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) game warden captain and city animal control officers on a wild chase through the center of the city. When it was all over, the mountain lion was shot and killed in El Paso. It seems wild animals can show up anywhere and anything can happen.
The mountain lion was a male weighing 102 pounds. The lion was first seen on railroad tracks near downtown around 8:30 a.m. by Union Pacific employees. They contacted El Paso’s animal control unit, which began looking for the cat. A short time later, a passerby saw the animal enter the parking garage of a state office building at 401 E. Franklin, where TPWD game wardens have their offices along with several other government agencies.
Once the animal had been cornered in the garage, a Texas Department of Health veterinarian shot it with a tranquilizer dart. However, before the drug could take full effect, it jumped from the second floor of the garage back onto the street, heading north out of downtown with multiple agencies right on it’s tail.
Passing through a school yard, the mountain lion ran about a half-mile north to H&H Car Wash at 701 E. Yandell Dr., where Newman and other officers evacuated several customers and lowered the business’s vehicle security gate to trap the mountain lion inside. The animal eventually went down, but it did not lose consciousness so the veterinarian shot it with a second tranquilizer dart. Despite that injection, the mountain lion took off and hit the fence, finding a space it was able to crawl through.
It appeared that the lion was about to escape again, so two officers shot and killed the animal shortly before 10:30 a.m. The mountain lion will go to El Paso animal control facilities, and there will eventually be a necropsy analysis done.
There are occasional reports of mountain lions within the city limits, which is only about a mile from the Rio Grande River and in near proximity to the Franklin Mountains. Three or four years ago a TPWD game warden shot and killed a mountain lion in one of El Paso’s west side neighborhood that backed up to the mountain range. This seems like a lot of lion activity in recent years, so I can only suspect that the area has a healthy mountain lion population.
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