Bears Are Back!
Submitted by Carol A. Clark
By Land of Enchantment Wildlife Foundation
It is one of the most wonderful times of the year and the bears are back in town after a long winter rest. The bears are beginning to prepare to regain the weight lost during their hibernation. That means area residents may start seeing them around our communities looking for easy sources of food.
This paw print found by Ty Horak is estimated to come from a 350 lb. bear. Courtesy/LEWF
Bears always come with some fear … fear of the predator in one’s back yard … so the Land of Enchantment Wildlife Foundation is sharing some bear facts. Bears are the embodiment of power. They are big, strong and fast. Given enough time, a bear can break into almost any contraption. With this, people often fear bears in all forms, but most of the time, bears are skittish animals. Unless they or their cub is threatened, most bears will seek the quickest escape route from a situation.
Anyone encountering a bear in the wild that does not automatically run away, should remember to act BIG and LOUD! If you can appear bigger than the bear, the bear will flee. Now, bears are known for doing a bluff charge and snapping their jaw. If this happens, just continue to be BIG and LOUD.
Now, that will work for most bears, but not all. Should you come across a cub in the wild your best option is stop and slowly walk backwards away from the cub. Momma bears will only attack if their cub is threatened. Should you be attacked, play dead, and wait for the mom and cub to leave the area before getting to help.
NEVER approach a cub, even if you think it has been abandoned or orphaned by its mother. Your best bet is to contact New Mexico Game and Fish and report the bear. Separating the cub from its mom not only has a huge impact on the development of the cub, but also will cost a wildlife rehabber around $6,000 to $8,000 to get the cub to a healthy weight to release, with only a 50 percent chance that bear will survive. In the end, it is always safer for you and the cub to leave it alone.
NEVER EVER feed a bear! Although they look skinny, most bears will be able to find the food they need to get fat and ready for winter. By feeding the bear, you are putting yourself and the bear at risk. Bears are lazy by nature, and will want to spend as few calories as possible to find food. Should they find that you are leaving food for them, they will stop foraging for other sources of food. In the end, the bear could get into trouble, and if it is deemed a “problem bear” enough times, Game and Fish will have no choice but to kill the bear. In addition, bears are vastly protective of their food. Should you leave food for them, and you or someone you know gets too close, the bear will attack to get what it wants – FOOD.
To a bear, there is still nothing better than the food that humans leave out. This includes birdseed, hummingbird nectar, dog and cat food, and trash. Bears have an incredible sense of smell and are strong enough to break into most containers. In this case, the best solution is to limit the amount of food that is left outside, especially in your trash. Although there is a good chance the bear will still be able to smell the trash, it is unlikely the bear will break into your home to get to the food. So keeping your trash and your pet’s food inside will help to keep the bears out of your yard. Again it is not worth the risk!
In the end, bears should be enjoyed, not feared. They are incredibly powerful animals, but can be soft and gentle. Watching a mother and her cub brings warmth to the heart, and seeing a bear play in water makes you remember when you would run through the sprinkler as a kid. Yes, they are dangerous when provoked, so the best option is to sit back, get out of their way, and watch nature at its best.
The Land of Enchantment Wildlife Foundation and Pajarito Environmental Education Center are partnering May 12-13 to bring Los Alamos the first ever Bear Fest. Beginning May 12 with a Bear Buffet, people can learn and enjoy a feast that would make any bear happy. Then, May 13, the Nature Center will host the Bear Fest where the public can learn from local, state and national agencies about bears and how to share the world with them. There will be plenty of activities and learning for people of all ages.
For more information, and to register for the Bear Buffet, go to http://peecnature.org/events/details/?id=18217. Direct questions or concerns about bears to the Land of Enchantment Wildlife Foundation, Pajarito Environmental Education Center, or New Mexico Game and Fish.