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Wild critters – particularly bobcats – have been making frequent appearances in recent weeks to neighborhood yards in Las Cruces, with the greatest frequency reported on the east side.
Las Cruces district Game and Fish Department Sergeant Chris Ortega said an increase in wildlife in the backyards of the city is not unusual for this time of year.
“There are a lot of bobcats that come to the golf course areas,” he said. “People are watering, drawing in the prey base. The deer are coming in. The Talavera area and Los Alturas are where we’re getting [sightings].”
If you see a bobcat, Ortega said the thing to do is make noise, but avoid direct eye contact and back away from the animal. If you have pets, take them their food and water in at night. The big cats come to town following prey who are coming in for the moisture. But the predators like the moisture, too, and will lie on cool concrete and sometimes even pool covers.
“They are sometimes habituated to people and not usually sick,” Ortega said. “We don’t do a whole lot with them. If we remove a predator that is not causing hate and discontent, the chance of another one coming in and being dangerous is pretty high.”
Las Cruces has a lot of urban sprawl, so it is creeping into the territory of the animals, he said. Also, rainfall is below average, and the hot, dry conditions encourage creatures to look to lush places for both nourishment and cooling off.
Ortega said his department is also getting calls from people picking up birds they think are hurt. Most of the time, they are not hurt, but fledglings learning to fly. The parents will watch and feed their young at that stage.
“The best thing to do is leave it alone,” he said. “We don’t want to try to rehab when there is nothing is wrong with the birds. COVID is making it more difficult to transport those critters. If we can, we put them back in the nest.”
Another animal commonly sighted in urban sprawl of Las Cruces is the javelina, or wild pigs that often sport menacing tusks.
“We have javelina where we never had them before,” he said, adding that if javelina are cornered, they can be dangerous. As with bobcats, Ortega said “making a lot of noise” is the best way to scare them off.
“Their sense of smell and hearing is excellent, but they can’t see worth a darn, so they will take off,” he said. “Any animal can be dangerous. If they have young or you corner them, they will protect themselves.”