Bears on hunt for food, water

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People and wildlife become more active outdoors with warmer weather upon us, and the Department of Game and Fish is encouraging everyone to be aware of some of the hazards posed by human-wildlife encounters.

Spring is the time of year when bears emerge from their dens and begin looking for food after their long slumber.

One such brown bear was seen last week in the backyard of a Magdalena area residence which borders the Cibola National Forest in Hop Canyon.

Home owner Laurie Taylor-Gregg said the bear was high up in a pine tree, apparently chased by the family dog Mocha, on Friday, May 9. Later that evening it was gone, she said.

"The bear came down after we brought the dogs in and wandered off, I guess," Laurie said. "We haven't seen him since. Mocha must have been a worthy opponent."

Rick Winslow, bear and cougar biologist for Game and Fish said the most important thing to do is secure trash and remove anything that might attract a bear.

"In the spring, bears eat naturally available foods such as insects and grass, but they can be lured into dangerous situations by human food and attractants," he said.

Every year bears stray into neighborhoods, enticed by human food sources such as garbage and bird feeders. Bears that associate humans with food can become aggressive and are a threat to public safety.

"The department wants to give bears every opportunity to be wild, but to keep the public and bears safe, at times we have to step in," Winslow said. "Sometimes we can educate the public about bear attractants, other times a bear has to be relocated, and occasionally, if a bear has become a threat to people, it has to be put down.

"This is a community issue that will only be solved by the community coming together," Winslow added. "If five people on your block are doing the right thing to care for bears and someone isn't, they are putting your whole neighborhood and bears in danger."

• Keep wildlife wild by remembering five bear aware tips.

• Keep trash away from bears.

• Only feed birds in the winter or bring bird feeders in at night.

• Keep food sources, including pet food, out of the reach and smell of bears.

• Keep barbecue grills clean or store inside.

• Pick fruit before it ripens.

Winslow released a male bear back into the wild in April 7 in the Manzano Mountains south of Albuquerque, after a department officer captured the young bear last year in downtown Bernalillo. The bear may have been looking for food in town and was scared up a tree. The Wildlife Center in Espanola cared for the bear over the winter.

Other wildlife species that normally are inactive during the winter months include skunks and raccoons and some of them already are making mischief among people's trash and pets, according to Winslow.