El Paso, TX – Thursday morning El Paso Police confirmed that a coyote was spotted in the parking lot of Purple Heart Elementary, prompting the school to go into lockdown. As plants and gardens begin to bloom expect more wildlife to venture into the city in search of food.
Urban wildlife biologist Lois Balin says that coyotes could be venturing into the city this time of year in search for for food, water, or dens as females are getting ready to have their pups. Also, Purple Heart’s location on the fringes of urban development are prime locations for wildlife as they lie closer to their habitat.
Exotic, non-native plants and pet food attract many wild animals to the city as they are like ice cream to them according to Balin.
Mountain lions are not as common as coyotes, but they have wandered into El Paso before, including back in August of 2011 when a mountain lion wreaked havoc across the city.
Balin has some advice for these rare encounters: “So if you see one and you have small children, you need to pick those children up right away. Get them up off the ground, you know carry them, and back away slowly. Don’t ever run, don’t every turn your back, and don’t every run on a large predator like a bear or mountain lion. Just back away slowly, keep calm. If they move towards you, then you need to become more aggressive, throwing rocks or sticks and shouting and making yourself bigger, that sort of thing.”
Balin also says that the fall is the most likely time of year to spot wildlife as young animals are looking for their new home range. Occasionally even bears come all the way down from the Sacramento mountains looking for a new home, but they do not take up permanent residence in the Franklin Mountains as there is not enough water or shade.