by Deanna Tolliver
The New Mexico Department of Game and Fish (NMDGF) has issued a statement warning campers of increased bear activity in the northern part of the state. Multiple bear cub sightings have been reported by campers.
Spokesperson Tristanna Bickord says “some may view this as a unique opportunity to view young wildlife; however, it is very important for people to not attempt to approach these bears for any reason and to maintain a safe distance.”
Drought conditions in the state may be forcing bears to seek alternative food sources and travel more. Recently, a black bear was hit and killed in a car collision in southwestern Kansas, an area not known for bears. State wildlife biologists were not too surprised at this, because drought traditionally puts bears on the move to find food.
Rick Winslow, a cougar and bear biologist with the NMDGF said “Droughts historically have led to a lot of bear conflicts, not only at camping and picnic sites, but also in more populated areas.”
In bear country, remember:
• keep your camp clean
• store food and garbage properly, using bear-proof containers if available
• if not, suspend food, toiletries, cooler, and garbage from a tree at least 10 feet off the ground and six feet out from the trunk
• never feed bears
If you encounter a bear:
• make yourself appear large by holding out your arms and clothing
• if you have small children, pick them up so they don’ run
• back away slowly and give the bear plenty of room so it doesn’t feel threatened or trapped
• never get between a mother bear and her cubs
If attacked by a bear:
• fight back using anything at your disposal: rocks, sticks, binoculars
• aim for the bear’s eyes and nose
While hiking in bear country, make noise while you move: sing, talk loudly, jingle a bell. Carrying a can of bear spray is also recommended. Always be aware of your surroundings.