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Jemez Mountains increased bear activity

JEMEZ – Due to multiple sightings of bear cubs by campers in the area of Forest Road 376 in the Jemez Mountains, recreationists are reminded to keep a clean camp and be bear aware during the long weekend.

According to Tristanna Bickford, communications director, “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.”

The department strongly urges you to avoid getting between the mother and her cubs. Bickford continues, “Always be aware that the mother is likely in the area. Approaching wildlife is dangerous and getting into the personal space of any wild animal is a bad idea.” The department will have extra staff in the area to ensure safety of the public and wellbeing of the bears.

The state has experienced less than average precipitation for this time of the year, which means that bears may be in search of other food sources, said Rick Winslow, cougar and bear biologist with the department.

“Droughts historically have led to a lot of bear conflicts, not only at camping and picnic sites, but also in more populated areas,” said Winslow.

Due to the recent increased bear activity, people should be even more diligent about keeping campsites clean and paying attention to their surroundings when visiting bear country.

The department offers the following suggestions if you plan on spending the long weekend camping in this area and other areas where bears may be present:

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 6 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, 100 yards is recommended.
Never feed bears.

If you encounter a bear:

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 are experiencing a persistent problem with bears, please contact your regional Game & Fish office or contact your local law enforcement for immediate assistance. Visit the department’s website to find contact information: http://www.wildlife.state.nm.us For more information about living with bears in New Mexico please consult Keeping Bears Alive and Yourself Safe.