ALTO, N.M. (KRQE) - People in the mountains of southeastern New Mexico are used to seeing wildlife, but recent sightings of a particular predator have given some of them that too-close-for-comfort feeling.
A big cat may have moved into a neighborhood in Alto Lakes near Ruidoso, and that has people on edge.
Jamie Estes spotted it for the first time two months ago when something triggered the motion detector light on his carport.
"Usually it's a deer or skunk or something," Estes recalled. "Laying behind my car was this really big mountain lion."
Estes' wife noticed it first and woke him up to see him through the window.
"He knew we were there looking through the window, and he just kind of rolled over and looked at us, not alert at all," Estes said.
Eventually, the lion slowly walked away. Last week, Estes arrived home to another encounter.
"When I pulled up, he got up and just started ambling down the street, walking through the yards like, 'No problem,'" Estes continued.
After Estes found the mountain lion in his front yard, he and his wife were more cautious. His wife checked under the deck the next day to make sure the lion wasn't there, and that's when she found what he was storing.
"He at some point had killed a deer, drug it underneath our back deck, and ate half of it and left the other half," Estes said.
That's when he called the state Department of Game and Fish.
Estes said he prefers the animal be relocated, but game officers told News 13 the big cat may have to be euthanized.
Officials said like bears, mountain lions are more of a threat once they've lost their fear of humans.
Other residents have reported seeing the lion, even those playing at Kokopelli golf course, which is near Estes' home.
Estes described seeing the cat as a neat experience. He said it was a beautiful animal, likely longer than 5 feet not including the tail.
"He's very powerful, he's all muscle, and the last thing I want to do is startle him," Estes explained. "I don't know if he'd attack a person, I have no idea, but I'm not going to find out."
Estes said they haven't seen the mountain lion since late last week when it began snowing.
Game and Fish officials warn anyone that encounters one, not to run but instead to act big by raising your coat over your head.
Officials said feeding deer will draw predators since deer are the primary prey species for mountain lions. Game and Fish have an informational brochure available for those that live near large predators in New Mexico.
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