Phaedra Haywood New Mexico Department of Game and Fish officers spent most of Tuesday searching in vain for a mountain lion they believe might be living in a neighborhood near downtown Santa Fe.
Game and Fish spokesman Dan Williams said the agency got a call from a resident who saw the lion in the area of Don Gaspar Avenue and Cordova Road Tuesday morning.
Department wildlife biologists saw the lion about an hour later, but couldn't catch it.
"It appeared to know its way around the neighborhood and was able to give them the slip pretty easily," Williams said.
Williams said the biologists did track the cat through some alleys and backyards and got a good enough look at it to determine it is probably a healthy, mature animal weighing about 150 pounds.
He said tracks of various ages indicate the big cat may have been living in the neighborhood — which has many trees and bushes — for "a while."
"I wouldn't be surprised if some people are missing their cats or little dogs," Williams said. Mountain lions "will eat anything smaller than them. They prefer deer, but they will eat other things."
Williams said it's likely the mountain lion was lured down out of the mountains by deer who came to lower elevations during heavy snowstorms.
"We are actively searching for this mountain lion," Williams said. "Obviously we don't want to have a top predator hanging around a busy neighborhood."
Williams said area residents should keep pets and small children inside at night and exercise extra caution in their backyards by securing pet food and trash. People should turn on lights and look around before going outside at night, he added.
Anyone who spots the mountain lion is asked to call Game and Fish at 476-8000 during business hours or the dispatch center at 827-9376 after hours.
Contact Phaedra Haywood at 986-3068 or firstname.lastname@example.org.