New Mexico Department of Game and Fish
Media contact: Dan Williams, (505) 476-8004
Public contact: (505) 476-8000
dan.williams@state.nm.us

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, JULY 9, 2007:

BEAR BITES CAMPER IN THE HAND AT SUGARITE CANYON STATE PARK
SIX SUSPECTS PAY MAXIMUM FINES FOR LITTERING ON PECOS RIVER


BEAR BITES CAMPER IN THE HAND AT SUGARITE CANYON STATE PARK

RATON -- A young black bear that bit and scratched a 13-year-old boy through his tent in Sugarite Canyon State Park early Sunday morning will be captured and tested for rabies.

Department of Game and Fish officers who investigated the incident said it did not appear to be a bear attack, but rather was a case of a bear reacting to the boy slapping at it when it brushed against the side of the tent. There is no reason to suspect the bear is rabid; however, state law requires any wild animal that breaks the skin on a human be euthanized and tested for rabies. Conservation officers were trying to catch the bear Monday by using a trap and tranquilizer darts.

The bear's head will be sent to the state laboratory for testing. The boy will be treated with rabies vaccine regardless of the test results, because there is no guarantee that the bear captured will be the same bear that bit the boy, State Epidemiologist Paul Ettestad said.

The incident occurred at about 2 a.m. Sunday in the Soda Pocket Campground of the state park about five miles northeast of Raton. Investigating officers said the boy told them he felt something brush the tent and, thinking it was his uncle playing a prank, he slapped at it through the tent. The bear responded by biting the tent, then it ran off into the woods. The boy was later taken to the doctor with a small puncture wound to his hand and a scratch on his forearm. Neither injury was serious, officers said.

Park Superintendent Bob Dye said it was the first time in 22 years that a camper had been bitten or scratched by a bear in the state park. Bears are common visitors to the park because of its mountain location, and the park emphasizes safety by using bear-proof trash cans and educating campers about the importance of keeping a clean camp and not feeding the animals.

"Having wildlife around is one of the reasons people visit the park," said Lief Ahlm, Northeast Area Chief for the Department of Game and Fish. "Fortunately, the park does a good job with trash management. Since the park started using bear-proof trash containers, we've had virtually no bear problems in the park."

Conservation officer Rey Sanchez said campers need to take precautions in bear country to avoid unpleasant encounters with animals. The best things to do are to keep campsites clean, lock up all food and cooking utensils, and never take food inside a tent. If you've been cooking, it's also a good idea to change clothes and secure any clothing that may contain food smells outside the tent.

"And, as we've all heard a hundred times: Don't feed the bears," Sanchez said. "Unfortunately, some people want to attract the bears so they can take pictures or so their kids can see them, so they leave food out. What happens next is usually bad for the campers, their neighbors ... and especially the bear, which sometimes has to be killed as a dangerous nuisance."

Officer Sanchez said the Department recently has been getting more calls in the Raton area about bears coming off the mountains in search of food.

"It's that time of year when the bears have run out of food up high -- all the early growth is gone and the berries and acorns haven't come on yet," he said. "Once they can get to the berries and acorns, they should head back up."

Here are some suggestions about safely coexisting with bears:

If you live or camp in bear country:

If you see a bear:

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SIX SUSPECTS PAY MAXIMUM FINES FOR LITTERING ON PECOS RIVER

CARLSBAD -- Five men and one woman from southeastern New Mexico collectively paid $3,402 in fines and court costs stemming from six littering citations issued by New Mexico Department of Game and Fish conservation officers.

During weekend angler patrol activities along the Pecos River south of Brantley Lake, officers Adam Wright and Brian Novosak observed six people floating down the river on tire tubes. The individuals were drinking and had several coolers floating along with them. Officers Wright and Novosak watched for about an hour and saw them toss numerous cans into the river. They also watched the suspects destroy a foam cooler and let the pieces float away. Both officers also heard the suspects laughing and talking about littering and boasting about "really messing up the river."

The suspects, ages 19-22, were identified as Megan McLeod, Nicholas Holley, Steven Nowak, Joseph Harris and Tyler Leadingham, all of Roswell; and Robert Goodloe of Artesia. They pleaded guilty or no contest to littering when they appeared June 26 before Eddy County Magistrate Henry Castaneda.   Judge Castaneda assessed all six suspects the maximum fine of $500 each on the littering charges. All six also paid $67 in court costs.

Anyone with information about poaching incidents or any other game law violations is urged to call Operation Game Thief at 1-800-432-GAME (4263).   Callers can remain anonymous and will be eligible for cash rewards if information leads to charges being filed.

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