Increased Cougar Sightings in New Mexico

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This winter's heavy snowfall has driven deer and elk to lower elevations than typical during the last decade of drought. Combined with continued residential development in traditional deer and elk wintering grounds, the table is now set for increased sightings of cougars near housing areas.

Since Christmas, the Department of Game and Fish has received regular reports of cougars near Tesuque. Cougar reports expanded to include La Cienega, southwest of Santa Fe and the Barranca Mesa, near Los Alamos , last weekend.

"The cougars aren't causing any problems at this time," said Officer Tim Frybarger, Chama District Supervisor. "The residents just thought it would be a good idea to let everyone know that there are cougars in these areas," Frybarger said.

Residents of cougar country should take a few precautions to avoid encounters with the large predators:

  • Closely supervise children, especially in early morning and late evening with the cats may be hunting.
  • Remove vegetation to reduce hiding cover.
  • Install outdoor lighting.
  • Close off open spaces.
  • Whenever possible, place all livestock in enclosed sheds and barns at night.
  • Don't allow pets to roam.
  • Encourage neighbors to take these precautions.

Attacks are very rare, however, anyone who actually encounters a cougar should not try to run away. Running could trigger the animal's attack instinct.

Other actions to take during a cougar encounter are:

  • Stay Calm and move away talking or making noise.
  • Face the predator and back away slowly, but try to avoid eye contact, which could be considered a threat.
  • Make yourself appear large, by spreading out your jacket behind your head and body, or simply extending your arms.
  • Convince it you are not prey by throwing sticks or waving your arms.
  • Fight back if attacked. Use any handy weapons including backpacks, sticks, rocks and even your bare hands.

Anyone with questions about large predators should call the Department of Game and Fish and request the "Living With Large Predators" brochure. It includes these tips, plus information about black bears, coyotes and bobcats.

The brochure also appears on the Department web site at www.wildlife.state.nm.us/.