The field day has ended for the escaped Sub-Saharan African serval cat that grabbed headlines after Santa Feans spotted it roaming around Hyde Memorial State Park—thanks to an Albertsons rotisserie chicken.
Conservation Officer Manuel Overby of the New Mexico Game and Fish Department caught the cat in a "live cage."
Live cages are a safe and humane way to capture large animals such as the serval, says Game and Fish spokeswoman Tristanna Bickford.
Overby placed the chicken in the cage and left the area. Then, he waited.
The cage is set up with a camera to alert officers and a mechanism that closes the door after an animal enters.
A state Parks Department employee called Game and Fish after seeing the serval Thursday morning, Bickford tells SFR. That led to the capture.
The Parks Department had been keeping tabs on the animal and calling in the majority of sightings since it was first spotted by residents and picnickers over the weekend.
The cat has been transferred to Albuquerque BioPark while officers investigate whether it was being held as a pet and how it escaped, according to Game and Fish.
"At this time the Department believes the serval was being kept as a pet and has no evidence to support it being from a captive breeding facility," a Game and Fish news release says.
Servals are native to the African grasslands south of the Sahara Desert where they are quite common and are not endangered. However, they are illegal to import or posses in New Mexico.
"Exotic pets like these are not only illegal, they do not make good pets," Overby says in the news release. "They have the potential to put the public in harm's way and cause damage to the state's wildlife resources."
The serval has a lean body, long legs and a cheetah-like, orange-and-tan coat with black spotted markings. It is a night hunter that preys mostly on small rodents.
Here's an example of adorable serval kittens being kept as pets somewhere other than New Mexico:
Just slightly larger than most domesticated cat breeds, the serval is among the smallest of African wild cats which makes it a more commonly kept pet than other wild cats such as leopards or lions. While illegal as a pet in New Mexico, it's legal to own a serval without a license in Alabama, Nevada, Idaho, South Carolina, North Carolina, Wisconsin, and West Virginia.