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Roswell considers enhancing safety at zoo

A Roswell city councilor said the southeastern New Mexico city may look at increasing security at the Spring River Park and Zoo after an alleged vandal cut gate locks and fencing on five animal exhibits.

Councilor Barry Foster wouldn’t go into specifics because he doesn’t want another incident to occur after four animals had a chance to run free inside the zoo campus Sunday morning.

“No animals were hurt,” Foster said. “The city is going to do what’s necessary to keep animals and visitors safe. Letting animals out of their cages is bothersome. The zoo is in the heart of our citizens.”

A visitor notified zoo staff of a possible cut in the fence housing the red-tailed hawk exhibit, read a news release from the City of Roswell.

The cut left a small opening and the lone hawk was still inside as staffers began checking the zoo.

Exhibits housing a bobcat, coyote, two raccoons and two coatis were vandalized, read the release.

The hawk, coyote and one of the raccoons were found in their respective exhibits in keeper areas, which are used by zookeepers to access the exhibits during care for the animals.

It took zoo staff 15-20 minutes to locate all the animals, read the release.

The other raccoon was found hiding and was returned to its exhibit.

Mayor Dennis Kintigh said other city properties around Roswell besides the zoo were also hit by vandals.

“Vandalism always frustrates me; it’s so senseless,” Kintigh said. “We’ve seen it in a lot of places around the city; a glass door was broken at the city golf course, it’s not related to what happened at the zoo.”

Kintigh said the animals at the zoo were rescued from various places and have been in a closed environment their entire lives.

“They would not be able to function in the wild,” he said. “We need to keep them safe.”

Kintigh said the city is looking at future expansion of the zoo.

“We’re looking at upgrading and getting a new exhibit for the mountain lions, and possibly upgrade the entire facility,” he said.

Despite Sunday’s incident, Kintigh said the zoo is a haven for the animals and visitors.

“Come on by,” he said. “The animals are safe and well cared for.”