New Mexico’s Game and Fish Department warns residents that "a fed bear is a dead bear." (newscenter.nmsu.edu)
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – New Mexico residents have a greater chance of encountering bears this spring because of dry conditions across the state.
Ross Morgan, a public information officer with the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, says a 225- pound black bear was recently spotted in Rio Rancho and had to be tranquilized before it was released back into the wild.
He says hikers headed out to enjoy warmer weather should stay alert.
"If you’re out hiking, you want to hike in groups, pay attention to what’s going on,” he stresses. “Wildlife is wildlife, and most of the time bears are real non-conflictive, but they are wild animals and you never know what they’re going to do, so hiking in groups helps out a lot."
There are nearly 9,000 adult black bears in New Mexico. Experts say if you see a bear, do not crouch or turn and run. Instead, stand up and make yourself seem as large as possible, tell it to go away in a stern voice and back away slowly.
More than 150 bears were put down across the country last year after being declared a nuisance.
Morgan says bears that lose their fear of humans often have to be euthanized, but property owners can help prevent that by bear proofing their garbage and not intentionally feeding wildlife.
"But if you do have feeders out and you notice the bears starting to come around, just remove those feeders, you know, for a week or two, several days, let that bear know that food source is not there anymore and it will move on," he advises.
Bear biology is governed by food availability, and Morgan says with the expansion of housing into formerly wild areas, the number of human-bear run-ins could increase.
He says campers need to take special precautions and families should always stick together in the wilderness.
"Know where your kids are,” he stresses. “Always keep your kids and pets close at hand.
“You don’t want to get a bear between you and your kids and those instincts from wild animals to chase things that are running and keeping them close at hand and keeping an eye on them is really important."
The Fish and Game Department reminds hikers they should never toss food to a bear they encounter because it puts the next group of hikers at risk.
Roz Brown, Public News Service – NM