A mountain lion was shot and killed yesterday after leading officers on a two hour chase through downtown El Paso. The 125 pound cat ran through a parking garage, across a schoolyard, and into a car wash before finally being shot by officers.

The cat was originally spotted by the railroad tracks by Union Pacific workers, who contacted the El Paso animal control. Officers began the search for the cat and eventually caught up with it in a parking garage. The cat was shot with a tranquilizer dart; however it dove out of a second story window and escaped. Units immediately pursued the animal, which then ran through the grounds of St. Clement's school, running past the Headmaster and several students. After leaving the school campus, the wildcat headed to a car wash, but not before knocking a pedestrian down.

Officers trapped the cat inside the car wash and shot it with another tranquilizer. Although the dart made the animal drowsy, it still managed to nearly escape the garage. At that point two officers (from the El Paso Police Department and the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission) opened fire on the animal, finally ending the chase.

The El Paso Game Warden says they receive occasional calls about wildcats inside the city limits, mainly because the drought has driven them down from the mountains in the area. But is there a danger of mountain lions on the South Plains?

According to information provided by Texas Parks and Wildlife, there is. In fact, mountain lions have been spotted in all 254 counties of Texas, with moralities from mountain lion attacks recorded in almost seventy counties. Out of those counties, three are right in here on the South Plains. Mountain lion attacks have contributed to deaths in Garza Kent and Borden counties, just south of Lubbock county. Lions have also recently been spotted in the Sudan area of Lamb County.

Texas Parks and Wildlife officials say the cats are more prone to live in canyons and mountainous areas such as Palo Duro canyon, however they can stray to any region of the South Plains. While they probably won’t make a den in the middle of a cotton field or downtown Lubbock, transient wildcats will travel miles to establish new territory, which means it wouldn’t be abnormal to see one on a county road.

If you live in a high risk area of the South Plains, such as areas around a riverbed or other rugged terrain, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Lions will have been driven out of their normal habitats due to the lack of rain and wildfires in the area. Take special care if there are deer in your area, because mountain lions frequently live in areas close to a ready food source.  Keep your eyes out for shrinking numbers of small animals around the area and keep dense vegetation clear of children’s play areas if you suspect one might be in the region.

For more information on wildcat safety, visit the Texas Parks and Wildlife website at www.tpwd.state.tx.us

Have you had a run-in or sighting of a wildcat in your area? Tell us about it by commenting below!