ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Officers in New Mexico unexpectedly located a tiger while investigating a shooting near a convenience store on Tuesday.
The Albuquerque Police Department was responding to reports of shots fired on Tuesday afternoon when an employee of a nearby Allsups convenience store reported that a customer had been shot in the leg by a stray bullet. Upon arrival at the store, police heard another gunshot coming from a nearby mobile home, and found a suspect armed with “a semiautomatic handgun with an extended magazine,” police wrote in a press release.
APD identified the suspect as Kevin Gerardo Vargas Mercado.
Officers also noticed a trail of blood leading to another trailer. Believing there may have been a wounded person inside the trailer, police entered and instead found a Bengal tiger cub in a dog crate.
It appeared that the cub was not injured. Officers had yet to located any potential victims as of Tuesday evening.
Mercado was taken into custody by police. The tiger cub was placed in the custody of the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, according to the press release.
Exotic animals, including tigers, are classified as Group IV prohibited species in New Mexico, and are only allowed in the state’s zoos, the Department of Game and Fish reiterated in Sept. 2022, after conservation officers were tipped off to reports of a tiger being illegally held as a pet at two Albuquerque residences. In that case, officers arrived at the homes and found an alligator — also a Group IV prohibited species — but no tiger.
“Members of the general public are not allowed to keep these species for any reason,” the Fish and Game department wrote in a September 2022 news release. “Further, possession of large carnivores, such as a tiger or alligator, presents a clear danger to the public.”
It’s not clear whether the Bengal tiger found on Tuesday is the same that conservation officers were searching for during last year’s raid.