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



TIJERAS -- The sudden onset of record hot weather has brought some familiar visitors to New Mexico campgrounds, picnic areas and some communities. The bears are back, and as always, they want your food.

Tuesday morning, Conservation Officer Mike Ahlm was responding to his 11th bear call in two days in the East Mountains area near Albuquerque. He had just finished collecting a road-killed bear on Interstate 40. A week earlier, he had to kill an aggressive bear that was terrorizing a picnic area.

Ahlm hates to kill bears.

"There were indications that that bear was being fed by people, and that's usually a death sentence for bears," he said. "If I find out you've been feeding bears, I will prosecute you." Anyone who intentionally or unintentionally feeds a bear that becomes a nuisance could be fined $500.

Periods of hot, dry weather before the monsoon season can be tough for bears, said Rick Winslow, large carnivore biologist for the Department of Game and Fish. Most of the bears' spring diet of green grass and forbs is gone, and the acorns, piñons and chokecherries haven't ripened.

"It's normal for bears to go through a period when there is a lack of food," Winslow said. "This is when you see bears turning over rocks and logs looking for grubs and eating ants -- or going into town," Winslow said. It's also a time when people who visit or live in bear country need to be reminded to bring in their bird feeders, lock up their garbage and keep pet food inside.

Residents of the East Mountains can learn more about how to safely coexist with bears at a public meeting at 6 p.m. Monday, June 14, at the Vista Grande Community Center in Sandia Park. Ahlm, Winslow and other representatives of the Department of Game and Fish will be on hand to discuss bear behavior, conflicts and strategies to keep bears from becoming habituated to humans.

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.

If you see a bear and consider it a safety threat, please contact your local Department of Game and Fish conservation officer, police or sheriff's office. You also can call the Department office in Santa Fe at (505) 476-8000, or area offices in Albuquerque, Raton, Roswell and Las Cruces, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Here are some suggestions about safely coexisting with bears:

If you live or camp in bear country:

  • 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.
  • Remove bird feeders. Bears see them as sweet treats, and often they will look for other food sources nearby.
  • 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 or unintentionally 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.
  • 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.

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.


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