New Mexico Department of Game and Fish
Media contact: Marty Frentzel, (505) 476-8013
Public contact: (505) 476-8000
martin.frentzel@state.nm.us

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, JUNE 8, 2010:

GET OUTDOORS, BUT BE COUGAR SMART NEW MEXICO

SANTA FE -- National Get Outdoors Day will be celebrated across New Mexico Saturday, June 12, and Governor Bill Richardson wants outdoors people to be “Cougar Smart” as well.

Governor Richardson signed a proclamation declaring Saturday “Cougar Smart New Mexico Day,” alerting hikers, bikers and other outdoor recreationists that New Mexico is Cougar Country, and encouraging them to stay aware of their surroundings. Good advice for bear country, too.

“New Mexico is cougar country,” said Governor Richardson. “As people get outdoors and enjoy the state’s wildlife and wildlands heritage, they need to stay alert to the possibility that cougars and bears share those lands. While cougar attacks are extremely rare, following a few simple steps can help people cut their risk.”

The steps for dealing with cougars and bears include:

  • Don’t run; stand your ground if a cougar is seen nearby.
  • Keep children close and calm.
  • Hike in groups and make noise to avoid surprising a cougar.
  • Carry a walking stick and use it to fight back in the rare event that an encounter becomes an attack.

“Cougar attacks are extremely rare,” said Tod Stevenson, director of the Department of Game and Fish. “Recreationists should know that it’s a remote possibility, but it can happen and the results can be terrible. We want New Mexicans to know that just because they haven’t seen a cougar in 30 years of living here, that doesn’t mean the animals are not nearby.”

In support of the “Cougar Smart New Mexico” initiative, trailhead posters informing hikers and others to the presence of cougars have been prepared and are being distributed by a working group of representatives from Animal Protection of New Mexico, Santa Fe County Open Space Program, U.S. Forest Service, New Mexico State Parks, and the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish.

The Governor’s “Cougar Smart New Mexico Day” proclamation reads:

“WHEREAS, the State of New Mexico has a bountiful natural and outdoor heritage; and

“WHEREAS, hundreds of thousands of people enjoy New Mexico’s open spaces and wildlife throughout each and every year; and

“WHEREAS, the state’s black bears and cougars are a valuable and treasured segments of that wildlife heritage, and

“WHEREAS, on rare occasion bears and cougars do present a clear and real danger to citizens hiking or otherwise visiting or living near the State’s forests and wild lands; and

“WHEREAS, a group of citizens and agencies has assembled clear guidance on how outdoors people of all ages can behave appropriately to reduce potentially dangerous incidents; and

“WHEREAS, that group, for reasons of public safety, has initiated concrete actions to make New Mexico’s wild lands users “Cougar Smart”;

“NOW, THEREFORE I, Bill Richardson, Governor of the State of New Mexico, do hereby proclaim June 12, 2010 as:

“Cougar Smart New Mexico Day” throughout the State of New Mexico.”

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