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What to do if you encounter a bear


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Predator Alert

Recent encounters with wildlife cause concern


Several recent encounters with wildlife in New Mexi-co have prompted the Department of Game and Fish to put forth some guidelines for people to follow in regards to bear and cougar encounters.

it's a bear
American black bears, like the ones that attacked two men in Lincoln County in June, are not always black and can be a variety of colors including browns and red. (Photo by Michelle Buntin)

In the first week of June two men were attacked by bears in separate incidents as they were looking for shed antlers in the Lincoln National Forest.

The first attack involved an adult black bear which went after a 55-year-old man in the Lincoln National Forest on June 1. The man suffered deep flesh wounds from scratches on his chest and a bite to his leg. He was treated and released from Lincoln County Medical Center in Ruidoso.

That attack occurred in the forest near Baca Campground off Forest Service Road 57. The man had been hunting for antler sheds in thick brush when he apparently surprised the bear.

The bear charged the man and attacked him before fleeing into the woods. The injured man notified his hunting companion by two-way radio and the two hiked to their vehicle and drove to the hospital.

The second attack, on a 25-year-old man, resulted in the bear being shot as it charged.

The man was not injured by the bear. He reported on June 4 he had been searching for antlers in the forest between Carrizozo and Capitan when he encountered the bear as he came over the top of a hill. He told officers that the bear charged and he shot it with his .30-30 caliber rifle from about 10 yards away.

The Department of Game and Fish Officers investigated the incident and recovered the carcass of the bear, an adult female, early Friday morning. There was no evidence to indicate the presence of cubs.

The second incident took place about 30 miles away from the first. Officials said it is unlikely the same bear was involved in both encounters and cautioned the public to be attentive to their surroundings when searching for shed antlers in areas known to be inhabited by black bears.

If you encounter a bear:

  • Stop, and back away slowly while facing the bear. Avoid direct eye contact, as the bear may consider that a threat. Do not run. Make yourself appear large by holding out your jacket. If you have small children, pick them up so they don’t run.
  • Give the bear plenty of room to escape, so it doesn’t feel threatened or trapped. If a black bear attacks you, fight back using anything at your disposal, such as rocks, sticks, binoculars or even your bare hands. Aim for the bear’s nose and eyes.
  • If the bear has not seen you, stay calm and slowly move away, making noise so the bear knows you are there. Never get between a mother bear and her cubs.

If you live or camp in bear country:

  • Keep garbage in airtight containers inside your garage or storage area. Place garbage outside in the morning just before pickup, not the night before. Occasionally clean cans with ammonia or bleach.
  • Remove bird feeders. Bears see them as sweet treats, and often they will look for other food sources nearby.
  • Never put meat or sweet-smelling food scraps such as melon in your compost pile. Don’t leave pet food or food dishes outdoors at night.
  • Clean and store outdoor grills after use. Bears can smell sweet barbecue sauce and grease for miles.
  • Never intentionally feed bears to attract them for viewing.
  • Keep your camp clean, and store food and garbage properly at all times. Use bear-proof containers when available. If not, suspend food, toiletries, coolers and garbage from a tree at least 10 feet off the ground and 4 feet out from the tree trunk.
  • Keep your tent and sleeping bag free of all food smells. Store the clothes you wore while cooking or eating with your food.
  • Sleep a good distance from your cooking area or food storage site.


For more information about cougars and living around large predators, please visit the Department Web site and check out the publication, Living with Large Predators in New Mexico.

By the Book

In The Carnivore Way, Cristina Eisenberg argues compellingly for the necessity of top predators in large, undisturbed landscapes, and how a continental-long corridor — a “carnivore way” — provides the room they need to roam and connected landscapes that allow them to disperse. Eisenberg follows the footsteps of six large carnivores — wolves, grizzly bears, lynx, jaguars, wolverines, and cougars — on a 7,500-mile wildlife corridor from Alaska to Mexico along the Rocky Mountains. Backed by robust science, she shows how their well-being is a critical factor in sustaining healthy landscapes and how it is possible for humans and large carnivores to coexist peacefully and even to thrive.




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