New Mexico game and fish warn of bears in drought conditions

ALBUQUERQUE, NM – The New Mexico Department of Game and Fish is warning New Mexicans to keep an eye out for bears in extreme drought conditions.

“The bears have come out of hibernation,” said department spokeswoman Tristanna Bickford. “They look for sources of food and water, and they travel until they find them.”

Wildlife experts say the dry conditions limit nearly every food resource the bears depend on, including grasses and flowering plants. This pushes bears into populated areas, including those that don’t normally see bear activity.

“While the bears tend to stay in forested areas, they move around quite a bit,” Bickford said. “So far this year we’ve had confirmed sightings at Clovis, there’s been one at Ute Lake, Santa Rosa, and then, of course, one that was found last week at Deming.”

The Deming city official said a bear cub was seen in a city park early last week. The little one finally showed up in someone’s yard and hit their dog. Officials say the panicked bear climbed a tree. Crews had to use tranquilizer darts to bring the bear to the ground and release it back into the forest.

“As humans we can do a lot to help them continue to move around the area and continue to help them move to a new place where they can find natural food and water sources,” Bickford said.

The ministry offers the following suggestions for preventing bear activity:

  • Keep waste properly contained until day of pickup, especially if you live in or near wooded areas.
  • Never let fruit from trees and bushes rot on the ground. It can be a powerful attractant for bears and other wildlife.
  • Remove bird feeders. Bears view them as high-calorie treats and often seek out nearby additional food sources.
  • Never put meat or smelly food scraps, such as melon, in your compost pile.
  • Do not leave pet food or dishes out overnight.
  • Clean and store outdoor grills after use. Bears can smell sweet barbecue sauce and grease for miles.
  • Keep your camp clean and properly store food and garbage at all times. Use bear-proof containers when available. Otherwise, hang food, toiletries, coolers, and garbage from a tree at least 10 feet off the ground and 6 feet from the tree trunk.
  • Keep your tent and sleeping bag free of food odors. Put away the clothes you wore while cooking or eating with your food.
  • Sleep a safe distance from your cooking area or food storage area. A distance of at least 100 meters is recommended.
  • Never intentionally feed bears to attract and observe them.

Experts say bears are generally not dangerous unless they have to defend themselves or their cubs. If you see a bear in the wild, it’s a good idea to make yourself look big and give it plenty of room to escape and move away.

Regarding bear sightings near residential areas:

“It’s best to watch what the bear does,” Bickford said. “If the bear is just a bear and it’s wandering around looking for food and water, then it’s best to let it continue. Let it enjoy its natural habitat.

Officials say anyone who sees a bear or other wildlife causing trouble in populated areas should contact their local Game and Fish office.

Experts expect the upcoming monsoon to help keep wildlife in forests, not neighborhoods.

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