New Mexico Department of Game and Fish Archive News Releases 2007-2013

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New Mexico Department of Game and Fish
Media contact: Dan Williams, (505) 476-8004
Public contact: (505) 476-8000



ALBUQUERQUE -- A hiker's encounter with a black bear in the Sandia Mountains was the latest of several reports of bears on the move and looking for food in the mountains, foothills and bordering communities throughout New Mexico .

From Taos and Raton in the north to Silver City and Ruidoso in the south, black bears are out and about. Residents and visitors in bear country statewide are reminded to take appropriate precautions to protect themselves, their property, and the bears.

The hiker who came upon a black bear May 6 in the Sandias put himself in danger because he wasn't sure what to do when encountering a bear or other large predator. The man ran from the bear, and the bear followed him. Fortunately, he was able to contact Department of Game and Fish Conservation Officer Darrell Cole on his cell phone, and Cole advised him to hold his ground and fight back by throwing rocks at the bear. The strategy worked -- the bear sniffed a rock and walked away, and the hiker returned home with a good story.

"Bear attacks are rare, but whenever you come across a bear, it's very important not to run, no matter how scared you may be," Cole said. "Running may prompt a bear to give chase, and you cannot outrun a bear."

The Department of Game and Fish publishes a booklet, "Living with Large Predators," which is available on the Department website, , or by calling (505) 476-8000. The booklet contains important information about bears, cougars and coyotes and how to avoid conflicts with them.

Here are some suggestions about safely coexisting with bears:

If you see a bear:

  • Stop, and back away slowly while facing the bear. Avoid direct eye contact, as the bear may consider that a threat.
  • Never get between a mother bear and her cubs.
  • If the bear has not seen you, stay calm and slowly move away, making noise so the bear knows you are there.
  • Do not run. Make yourself appear large by holding out your jacket. If you have small children, pick them up so they don't run.
  • Give the bear plenty of room to escape, so it doesn't feel threatened or trapped. If you are on a trail, step off on the downhill side and slowly move away.
  • If a black bear attacks you, fight back using anything at your disposal, such as rocks, sticks, binoculars or even your bare hands. Aim for the bear's nose and eyes.

If you live or camp in bear country:

  • Keep your camp clean, and store food and garbage properly at all times. Use bear-proof containers when available. If not, suspend food, coolers and garbage from a tree at least 10 feet off the ground and 4 feet out from the tree trunk.
  • Keep your tent and sleeping bag free of all food smells. Store the clothes you wore while cooking or eating with your food.
  • Sleep a good distance from your cooking area or food storage site.
  • Store toiletries with your food.
  • Remove bird feeders. Bears see them as sweet treats, and often they will look for other food sources nearby.
  • Keep garbage in airtight containers inside your garage or storage area. Place garbage outside in the morning just before pickup, not the night before. Occasionally clean cans with ammonia or bleach.
  • Never put meat or sweet-smelling food scraps such as melon in your compost pile.
  • Don't leave pet food or food dishes outdoors at night.
  • Clean and store outdoor grills after use. Bears can smell sweet barbecue sauce and grease for miles.
  • Never intentionally feed bears to attract them for viewing. If you intentionally feed a bear and the bear becomes a nuisance, you could be cited and fined up to $500 -- and the bear eventually may have to be killed.


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