Mountain Lion Tranquilized, Shot in Downtown El Paso

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EL PASO — A mountain lion that authorities first had tried to tranquilize led law enforcement officers, a Texas Parks and Wildlife Department game warden captain and city animal control officers on a wild chase through central El Paso that ended with the animal being shot and killed.

The mountain lion, a male weighing 102 pounds*, 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. But 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 in hot pursuit, including game warden Capt. Robert Newman, city animal control and others.

Passing through a school yard, the big cat 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 lay 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. Since it appeared about to escape again, two officers — one from El Paso Police Department and one from the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission – shot and killed the animal shortly before 10:30 a.m. The carcass will go to city animal control facilities, and there will eventually be a necropsy analysis done.

Capt. Newman noted that the Rio Grande is only about a mile from the incident area, and that the Franklin Mountains are also nearby. He said there are occasional reports of mountain lions within the city limits, and that three or four years ago a TPWD game warden shot and killed a mountain lion in a west side neighborhood that backed up to the mountain range.

General information about mountain lions in Texas, including what people can do if they encounter a mountain lion, is on the TPWD website.

* Correction, May 13, 2011: The gender and weight have been updated with current information. (Return to corrected item.)

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