New Mexico police are searching for vandals who cut locks and made holes in zoo enclosures over the weekend, allowing four animals, including a bobcat, to escape before they were quickly wrangled nearby.
A visitor at the Spring River Park and Zoo in Roswell first alerted zookeepers to an apparent opening cut into fencing at the red-tailed hawk exhibit Sunday, police said in a news release. Staff evacuated the estimated 15 to 20 visitors and discovered four more vandalized exhibits.
A raccoon, two raccoon-like coatimundis and a bobcat had escaped their enclosures, according to police. The four animals were found within 20 minutes in “keeper areas” not accessible to the public.
Staffers believe only the raccoon, which was hiding from zookeepers, might have temporarily strayed into a visitor area.
The hawk, a second raccoon and a coyote were found still inside their damaged exhibits.
No person or animal was injured during the brief escape, police said. Officials said it was “very fortunate” the animals stayed in their "comfort zones," but the vandalism could have put people and animals in danger.
Authorities said the one or more perpetrators appeared to have used heavy-duty bolt cutters to get into the zoo before it opened for the day.
The zoo is expected to reopen Monday.