Wayward serval warms up to green chile and is captured unharmed

A serval, a large African cat, was captured unharmed in Hyde Park and is now at the Albuquerque Biopark. Lance Cherry/Courtesy New Mexico Game and Fish Department

Even an African cat can’t resist Hatch green chile seasoning.

The serval seen roaming Hyde Memorial State Park by nearby residents and park employees was captured unharmed with a live trap early Thursday morning by New Mexico Game and Fish and parks staff.

The department credited the Market Street supermarket on North Guadalupe Street with donating a seasoned rotisserie chicken used as bait.

Tristanna Bickford, a department spokeswoman, told The New Mexican the animal was reported to Game and Fish last Friday but she couldn’t say how long the cat had been in Hyde Park.

Reader submitted video of the serval roaming Hyde Memorial State Park before its capture.

Bickford said conservation officers are investigating how the serval, native to southern Africa, ended up in the hills northeast of Santa Fe, but she could not comment on any details of an ongoing investigation.

Servals, a medium-sized hunting cat, stand about 2 feet tall at the shoulder. Their long legs, big ears and coloration — a golden dun with black spots and thin stripes — help make them one of the most efficient killers on the African savanna.

Lynn Tupa, a manager at the Albuquerque Biopark, confirmed the cat is being kept there until a new home can be found.

The 30-pound male will be quarantined for 30 days to make sure he hasn’t contracted any diseases or parasites. Re-homing options include other zoos, but Tupa said that without knowing his genetic makeup, the serval might not be considered valuable because zoos need to know an animal’s genetic history for use in breeding programs.

Otherwise, he might be sent to a sanctuary or trained for educational purposes, depending on a temperament assessment, she said.

Tupa said the creature was in decent health but possibly underweight. The cat “wolfed down” food zookeepers gave to him Thursday afternoon.

“He looks thin to me,” she said in a phone interview. “I’m not sure if he’s thin because he’s been outside for a while or if he was not fed the correct diet in captivity.”

Tupa said people need to consider the consequences of owning exotic animals.

“When they’re kittens, they look cute, but they grow up to be wild animals and make terrible pets,” she said.

Servals are listed as Class IV species with Game and Fish, meaning they are illegal to import or possess in New Mexico without a zoo license.