Responding to a shooting in an Albuquerque, New Mexico, neighborhood police stumbled upon an unusual find – a Bengal tiger cub in a dog crate, and a trail of blood but no shooting victim.
The tiger, a few months old and weighing 20 pounds, was taken to the ABQ BioPark Zoo, where veterinarians checked it out and deemed it in good health. It will remain there until the investigation is complete and a facility is found, officials said.
The Tuesday shooting remained a puzzle as police said they found a person had been grazed by a bullet in the leg outside a nearby convenience store but found no other shooting victim at the end of a blood trail leading to a mobile home trailer in the area.
“As they approached the trailer, the door was unlocked and the trail led inside,” authorities said in a news release. “Officers made entry to attempt to render aide to anyone who may have been wounded, but did not locate anyone and have yet to locate the individual.”
Police arrested a man they say was armed with a semiautomatic pistol. He was identified as Kevin Gerardo Vargas Mercado.
The discovery of the tiger is part of a spike in recent years of people illegally possessing such exotic animals, fueled by those seen in popular reality TV shows, officials said. Possessing a tiger is illegal in New Mexico and can only be kept by zoos in the state, officials said.
“The general public is prohibited from possessing a tiger and most other exotic species for any reason,” New Mexico Department of Game and Fish officials said.
To combat the problem the agency is offering rewards of up to $1,000 for anyone who offers information about people illegally possessing tigers and other endangered species that lead to charges being filed in court.
Those with information should immediately call Operation Game Thief at 800-432-4263 or file a report online. All information can be reported anonymously while remaining eligible for a possible reward.
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