Family spots native African animal in Santa Fe National Forest

New Mexico

SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – New Mexico has its share of interesting animals ⁠— bobcats, mountain lions, bears ⁠— but one Santa Fe family came across a creature that’s not even from this continent.

There’s a big beast on the prowl in the Santa Fe National Forest. It’s not a bear or an elk, which you could cross paths with in these woods.

This creature is something you wouldn’t expect. “We were like, ‘Woah’,” yelled 10-year-old Kinloch.

Kinloch and his family were lucky to come across it. “We thought it was from Africa,” said Kinloch. “[At first] we thought it was a leopard.”

They captured the encounter on camera. “I don’t know what that is doing here,” said the family in the video recording. “That is not an American cat.”

According to the Department of Game and Fish, that big cat is a serval. “It’s dotted, black dots,” said Kinloch. “It’s like a pretty good-sized dog and big ears.”

Kinloch and his family were camping this weekend by the Hyde Park area near the Santa Fe ski basin when they spotted the serval. “It was just walking on the road,” said Kinloch.

Servals are bigger than your typical house cat, yet smaller than a mountain lion. They can be almost two feet tall and weigh up to 40 pounds. They’re not native to New Mexico or even North America. They’re from Africa.

Wildlife officials don’t know how it got to this forest, but suspect it could’ve been someone’s pet, which is illegal to own in New Mexico.

But for this family, this rare sighting was the cat’s meow. “It was really cool at first,” said Kinloch.

Only the zoo can have a serval in New Mexico, which the BioPark does. The Department of Game and Fish said they will keep an eye out for the big cat.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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