Visitors to Roswell, New Mexico’s Pecos Elementary School may mistake it for a crime scene. Shattered windows and bullet holes remained after a confrontation between officers and a large mountain lion that was near the school. Thankfully, the students went home hours earlier. Residents near the school spotted the animal prowling the streets on Wednesday night, notifying the authorities. Police officers and deputies from the Chaves Country Sheriff’s office pursued the animal until it jumped over a fence.
“An animal like that could kill a child easily,” Lt. Britt Snyder told KRQE. ”There could be pets disappearing for many days before somebody realized something was going on.”
Officers managed to corner the animal on the school campus, but were unable to capture it. The desperate animal made the move to charge the officers, at which point it was shot and killed.
“If we have to put it down, then we have to put it down. We are not going to let it run loose in our community,” said Snyder.
Due to increased exposure to humans, mountain lion attacks have been increasing over the last several years. While these animals still generally avoid people they are powerful predators and will strike if cornered. According to experts, the best action to take when encountering a mountain lion in the wild is to appear large and threatening. Coupled with loud shouting, it might force the animal into retreat.
“What they are, are killing machines. They have evolved to be meat-eaters. That’s what they do for a living,” said Lt. Michael Perry of New Mexico Game and Fish. “They eat cows, they eat sheep, they eat whatever is going to walk across the street and that’s really not a scenario you want in Roswell.”
A mountain lion attack in 2008 killed a New Mexico man near his trailer home, but the animals generally do not stalk humans. Also known as cougars or puma, mountain lions are North America’s biggest cat and also has the largest range of any land animal on the continent. There are an estimated 30,000 mountain lions living in the Western United States.