Soaking wet, her face bloodied and eyes watery, Jacqueline García pulled the trigger of her .45 only to hear a “click.”
She tried again, but she only heard another “click.” Once more, moving slowly, she was able to chamber a round. García looked the animal in the face before she fired the fatal shot.
“I saw him slump over the perches, and he was just kind of dangling there,” she said.
García said she knew something was amiss when she arrived at her home in Valdez the night of March 15, just before 10 p.m. She said four of her five horses were missing, and the one that remained was acting “very strangely,” pacing and whinnying nervously.
“They’re always right there,” she said of the horses.
So García said she grabbed her boots and flashlight and “traipsed all over” her 43 acres in the dark of night before she found them.
“They were pretty much acting up,” she said. “Something was wrong. They were amped.”
She saw the gate to the pasture was still closed, so she walked the fence and found the hot wire broken in one spot. While she was fixing the wire, a log she was standing on rolled out from under her, sending her into a creek. She said she finished the repair and was walking back to the house when the horses broke through the hot wire again.
“The sheep started screaming,” García said. “The chickens and the ducks were really going nuts.”
She said she retrieved a .45-caliber, semi-automatic handgun from her car and went to investigate.
García said the swinging doggy door on her chicken coop was swung back, and she saw the hind end of a large cat.
“He was just sitting in there,” she said.
However, she said due to the angle of the door and the wire mesh between them, she couldn’t get a good shot. She went around to the outside of the coop, where a 10-foot fence separated her from the cat.
“I was trying to get a look at this thing inside,” she said.
But all García could see were her dead chickens, which she said she later realized had been decapitated. Using a rake handle, García said she pushed the door open a little further and could see the animal sitting atop a chicken perch.
She took a shot and missed. Then the cat lunged, García said, hitting the fence between them. The fence hit her in the face, giving her a bloody, swollen nose and, later, black eyes.
“There was blood everywhere, and my eyes were watery,” she said. “He was back on the perch, staring at me.”
García took aim again and heard a “click.” Once more, a round failed to chamber. She pulled the slide back again, slowly. Then success. She said it was about 11 p.m., and she couldn’t even see her sights, but she looked into the cat’s face and shot. She said she hit the cat under its foreleg, with the bullet entering its lung and killing it instantly.
García said without getting a better look at the animal, she drove to the Rim Road above Valdez, where she could get a cell phone signal, to call the Department of Game and Fish. She said an officer came to retrieve the cat at about 2:30 a.m., and it was too dark and windy to get a photo.
She said her ducks survived because of a fence that separated them from her chicken coop, but her remaining chickens are still spooked.
“My rooster won’t even come out,” she said.
Exactly what García was dealing with in the dark of night is the subject of some discrepancy. She said she thought it was a mountain lion, but Game and Fish Department representatives said it was a bobcat. Gabe Maes, sergeant for the Taos Supervisory District and supervisor of the responding officer, said he was unsure about the size of the cat and that no pictures were taken.
García said in her 49 years, she had only seen a mountain lion on her Valdez property once before — last fall, when she saw a cat with a long tail leap out of a corral. Two days later, a llama was killed.
Maes said landowners are entitled to take wild animals to protect personal property, crops, pets and the like. He said people who are having problems with predators should call Game and Fish’s Ratón office at (575) 445-2311, and officers will respond “fairly quickly.”