African lion on the loose in San Antonio? Stranger things have happened




The author investigates a recent lion report on the city's west side

At or around 1:30 a.m. on the morning of August 3, local authorities investigated a report of an ‘African lioness’ running loose in western Bexar County. Evidently, a woman who lives on Mesquite Trail near Talley Road phoned the Sheriff’s office after spotting the menacing animal prowling her neighborhood. A subsequent 90-minute search that involved a San Antonio police helicopter turned up nothing significant, only some deer.

As startling as this scenario sounds, it’s not the first time that extremely out-of-place critters have been described by locals. Last summer, a gentleman who lives near Helotes informed me that he was quite sure that he had repeatedly seen an African hyena crossing a county road that he traveled on his way home from work. I checked out the location, but was never able to confirm the man’s account.

Many readers will recall the incident in November of 2010 when a full-grown cougar escaped from an exotic wildlife refuge near Leslie Road and 1604. Residents in that Westside neighborhood were warned to stay indoors until the big cat could be tranquilized by wildlife officials. In September of 2010, an escaped monkey was captured off of Boerne Stage Road on the city’s north side. Nor should we forget the tragic, Zanesville, Ohio, situation last year where an exotic animal collector released dozens of dangerous animals including several lions, tigers, and bears that ultimately had to be euthanized; a sobering reminder that the potential is always there for unanticipated wildlife encounters.

So what of the Bexar lion? I drove out to the neighborhood last weekend to ask residents about the incident, but those who I spoke with were completely unaware of the situation. One gentleman informed me that the only varmints he has seen in that vicinity are nuisance coyotes. Although, I didn’t find any spore that might be associated with a big cat, I did notice that there were lots of potential lion snacks roaming about the area, including several dogs and even chickens. This past Monday, I placed a call to Bexar County animal control officers and a source who wished to remain anonymous who suggested that what the woman had most likely seen was a native mountain lion. These large native felids are known to exist in the hills west of San Antonio.

— Ken Gerhard

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