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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Unknown Animal Encounter - Cibola National Forest, NM

I received the following email on Tuesday:

Hello - thanks for allowing me to write to you about my recent encounter. Last Thursday (9/6) my friend and I were were hiking in the Cibola National Forest in a canyon area. We decided to take a break and have a rest. It was about 11:30 am local time. We are very familiar with the area and had hiked here on many occasions. We are also familiar with the wildlife and there have been bear warnings published for the park recently. I actually had a brief encounter with a black bear several years ago. There are also mountain lion sightings reported.

As we sat I noticed something moving in the brush to my right. It was not large so I was sure it wasn't a bear, but I was concerned that it may be a mountain lion. All of a sudden this dark grey fur-covered 'thing' sprang out of the brush snarling and growling. It kind of reminded me of a wolverine but it was bigger - I'd say about 100+ lbs and higher in stature. It stood there with it's mouth open and displaying many long jagged teeth. I picked up a rock just in case this animal decided to charge. After a standoff of about 30 seconds it quickly pivoted and ran into the brush. I could hear it move away from us.

We decided to back track to our truck and leave ASAP. My neighbor works at the Albuquerque BioPark and hikes all over the southwest. I asked him about what we encountered - he said that I must have misidentified a small bear. I can't find anyone locally who can tell me what this was. I've written to a few other crypto people as well. Do you have any idea what this was? BG

NOTE: My research turned up a few sightings of large wolverines in New Mexico...but mostly north of this area Wolverine - Gulo gulo - NatureWorks and Wildlife Conservation Society. I searched around and found an unusual reference to an encounter in the same general area...posted below:

Las Cruces Sun-News - May 18, 2008 - A 5-year-old boy hiking with his family near Sandia Peak, New Mexico, has survived an attack from an unidentified species of large animal, a spokesman for the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish said Sunday, May 18, 2008.

Bernalillo County Sheriff Darren White said the family was hiking near the popular Balsam Glade area on the Sandia Mountains, when the boy ran ahead of his parents. It happened on the east side of the Sandia Mountains around 7 p.m. Saturday.

A sheriff’s department report identified the boy as Jose Salazar Jr. of Albuqureque, New Mexico.

The boy’s parents saw the animal emerge from the brush and start dragging away their child, White said. The father then chased the animal, which let go of his son.

White said the animal was a mountain lion, but Ross Morgan, a spokesman for Game and Fish, said dogs trained to track mountain lions picked up no scent in the area Saturday night or Sunday.

Officials said they don’t know what kind of animal attacked the boy. They’re looking at the tracks in the area to find out if it was a cougar, mountain lion, or bear.

“The animal had the kid and was dragging him down the side of the hill. When the father jumped over there, the animal ran off,” said Ross Morgan, who works for the Department of Game and Fish.

“The dad described it as a short, stocky, dark brown animal,” Morgan said.

Morgan said hikers in the area Sunday were told about the attack, but the news did not deter them from hiking.

The Department of Game and Fish is warning people to be careful if they’re in the mountains.

Some people visiting the mountains on Sunday said they are aware of the dangers and are prepared for what could come their way.

“We have to expect that we’re going to come across animals,” visitor Rich Weiner said. “We’re in their habitat.”

But others who spend time in the Sandia Mountains, like David Czaplewski, said news of the attack has them shaken up.

“It’s shocking and kind of scary,” Czaplewski said. “We’re making sure we’re keeping track of where everyone is and looking around.”

Officials said everyone who is visiting the mountains should be extra careful, so they don’t become the next victim.

The boy suffered puncture wounds (bite marks) to his head, neck and back. He was in serious condition at University of New Mexico Hospital on Saturday, White said.

A hospital spokeswoman said Sunday the family declined to make the boy’s condition public.

He’s currently in the Intensive Care Unit at University of New Mexico Hospital.


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