By Steve Almasy, CNN
Police in New Mexico who were responding to a report of gunfire needed an assist from wildlife officials Tuesday when, while looking for a possible wounded victim, they discovered a months-old Bengal tiger cub.
Albuquerque Police officers found the tiger, which weighs about 20 pounds, in a small dog crate while searching a mobile home they were led to by a trail of blood, according to a news release from police.
The gunfire call led responding officers to a convenience store where a bystander there had been shot in the leg.
After police heard a gunshot in a mobile home not far from the store, they found and arrested an armed suspect. Police have not found the victim whose blood led them to the other trailer. The investigation into the shooting is ongoing.
After they discovered the tiger, police obtained a search warrant for the animal and turned the cub over to the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish.
The tiger is in good health, according to the news release.
It is illegal to import or possess most wildlife and exotic species in New Mexico without a proper permit, the release said, and tigers may only be possessed by a permitted zoo in New Mexico. For now, the cub is staying at the ABQ BioPark zoo.
Albuquerque Police Chief Harold Medina thanked wildlife officials for taking the cub to a safe place.
In recent years, the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish has noted a “substantial increase in inquiries about permits to import or possess tigers associated with the practice on popular television shows,” a news release from the department says.
In August, conservation officers and law enforcement served search warrants on two homes in Albuquerque in response to “intelligence that a tiger was being illegally held at one of the residences,” the release said. They didn’t find the tiger, but there was a 3-foot alligator — as well as illegal drugs and guns — according to the release.
“There has also been a noted increase in captive tigers being held among groups involved in activities like those in the August 2022 case,” the release said.
The alligator in that case was transported to a permitted zoo facility.
The tiger conservation officers were looking for in August should be more than a year old now and weigh at least 50 pounds, the Game and Fish Department said.
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CNN’s Andi Babineau and Paradise Afshar contributed to this report.