Living with Bears
DON’T FEED A BEAR—EVER… A FED BEAR IS A DEAD BEAR!
- Keep trash in a bear-proof garbage container or stored in a sturdy metal shed or closed garage. Put out garbage only on morning of pickup.
- Don’t feed pets outdoors or leave pet dishes or store pet food outdoors.
- Hang seed feeders from wires between trees high enough off the ground that a bear can’t reach it. Bring in hummingbird feeders at night. Feed suet and peanut butter only in winter when bears are in hibernation. Store birdseed in a closed container in a sturdy shed or the garage.
- Keep barbeque grills clean.
- Keep kitchen windows and doors closed on summer nights.
- For small livestock and chickens use a sturdy metal shed and/or a 5-strand electric fence using an approved fence charger with alternating current. Be sure to check with the county inspector for guidelines and/limitations.
- Put an electric fence around beehives.
- Don’t plant fruit trees or berry bushes near your home. Remove fruit before it ripens to stop bears climbing and breaking branches. Remove fallen fruit. Don’t add melon rinds or fruit to compost pile except in winter.
- Don’t leave food, groceries, pet food or birdseed in you car overnight
- Don’t feed other wildlife as it will attract bears too.
- If a bear is drinking from your swimming pool or hot tub, put water out as far from your house and neighbor’s homes as possible.
- Keep all poisons inside your house; also many bears die from ingesting garbage bags.
- Keep woodpiles and junk away from the house. Bears will hunt for rodents that live there.
- Please understand that a trapped bear does not transplant well. There are no pristine, unpopulated relocation areas left in New Mexico. A large percentage of bears die from being relocated.
Some tips for feeding birds, not bears
BearWatch believes that if birdfeeders are hung and maintained properly, you can enjoy your feathered friends and in the process help protect our dwindling bear population.
- Tip One: Hang your seed feeders and hummingbird feeders 10 feet up on a sturdy metal line suspended on poles or tree branches. Position your feeders 10 feet from each end of the poles/limbs. Stop feeding for a time if seed is accumulating on the ground.
- Tip Two: If you have high eaves, or second story eaves, you can hang feeders from them.
- Tip Three: Feed small amounts of seed that will last only several hours in the morning. This will work only if you’ve had no bear visitors. If a bear is in your feeders, you will need to stop feeding for a time and go to tip one, two.or four.
- Tip Four: Stop feeding birds from July 1 thru Oct. l. Last summer many people called NMG&F to complain or ask for trapping of bears for being in their bird feeders were told to stop feeding birds during these recommended dates.
Apples for Bears
In drought years, some of New Mexico’s bears become problem bears. The reason is three-pronged:
- hungry bears eating unprotected, available garbage
- foraging in fruit trees
- mountain residents calling NMG&F to trap these bears.
None of us have the power to change our climate. Unfortunately, in 2001, 2002 and 2003, East Mountain residents asked NMG&F to trap and remove a very large percentage of our bear population.
You may ask why? Those of you who have requested trapping don’t want the bears killed; you just want them off your property. Unfortunately, a trapped bear is tagged and a tagged bear is one step closer to being destroyed. How many more times do you think NMG&F officers will tag a bear before destroying it? Trapping bears for apples and unprotected garbage is extremely time consuming for the NMG&F. In 2001 alone, over $40,000 of a slim department budget was spent on trapping and relocating bears. And most important, it doesn’t work. Most of the surviving bears returned to the same open, unprotected garbage cans or apple trees that still had apples. In drought years there is scant to non-existent acorns for fall forage. Apples can be the only food left for a bear facing a five month long winter hibernation. What other alternative does this animal have in bad years?
NMG&F said that a large percentage of the bears they trapped in the in 2001-2003 came from resident’s requesting that bears be removed from their fruit trees. BearWatch and I, along with NMG&F Officers and most of the people who live here, believe that living in the mountains comes with a special responsibility; to do everything possible to not negatively impact our wildlife.
Apples in a drought year are an attractant just as is available garbage and birdseed. People are responsible for that attractant, not the bear. If you don’t want to share your apples with a hungry bear, you can (1) pick and remove all apples from your trees to avoid visiting bears and broken tree limbs, (2) put up a 1 to 5 strand electric fence around your trees, (3) Leave your unused apples on the ground for our hungry bears (4) have patience and realize that this is a drought year and that future years will bring us more moisture so our remaining bears will chose to stay higher on the mountain.
For the very first time in 19 years, I had a bear in my large, very old apple tree. I could hear branches breaking and it was also breaking my heart; I love that beautiful old tree! There was some damage but this is what comes with living with bear in our small mountain range.
Without a real effort on behalf of all mountain residents, our bear population will be non-existent in a few short years. How very sad to have a sterile mountain with no bears. Please choose to save a bear. Don’t call for trapping unless there is a safety issue with the bear trying to come into the house or a bear is hanging around your home and won’t leave.
Please feel free to call your local Wildlife Steward or me at any time if you have questions. We care about our mountain neighbors and about the wildlife living here.
Hiking In Bear Country
- Make noise by talking or singing while hiking to keep from surprising an unsuspecting bear.
- If a black bear is visible, but not close, alter your route so that you will move away from the area.
- Always carry Bear Pepper Spray
- Signs that bear could by nearby:
- Bear Scat (very large round piles with assorted seeds, fruit,etc.)
- Rubbed, clawed trees
- Turned-over rocks, torn-up logs, disturbed soil
- Ripe Summer Fruit and Berries
- Fall Oak Groves with acorns and/or pinon nuts on the ground
If you Encounter a Bear While Hiking
DON’T RUN!. This causes the bear to instinctually chase you down
Stop, back away slowly
Do not make eye contact - the bear considers eye contact to be aggressive
If a bear acts aggressive, he may charge several times, snapping his jaws. Stand your ground and try to scare the bear away by using pepper spray and/or by shouting at it. Most encounters end in bluff charges. If the bear attacks, use pepper spray, rocks, sticks or your fists. Most black bears will not continue the attack Do not play dead. An attacking black bear, unlike a territorial grizzly, wants to eat you.
Camping in Bear Country
- Select a Campsite away from berry patches, oak groves, animal trails.
- Place sleeping tents at least 100 yards from food storage and cooking areas
- Store all food, including pet food and garbage by hanging at least 10 feet from ground and 4 feet from top and side supports or put food in car trunk
- Don’t store food in the car passenger compartment since bears can pop windows out and do major damage to the interior of your car
- If a bear-proof receptacle is available, use it
- Keep a clean campsite at all times.
- Use a designated camping area
- Set up tents with reasonable space between
- Keep pets on a lease
- Keep sleeping area, tent and sleeping bag free of food and odors
- Don’t sleep in clothes in which you have cooked or handled fish or game
- Don’t use perfumed hair sprays, gels, shampoos, lotions, etc.
- Spit your used tooth paste away from camp or in the campfire
- Women, change sanitary napkins often, burning used ones
- Keep a flashlight and bear pepper spray readily available at all times
Dogs in Bear Country
Be Responsible for your dogs:
Fence Your Dogs:
Dogs can pose a serious problem for a multitude of wild creatures while wildlife can cause devastating problems for dogs. Bearwatch recommends invisible fencing - an electric underground cable transmitting to a dog collar. It is aesthetically pleasing to the eye and it really works!
The following are the reasons you should fence your dogs:
- It is the county law that all pets be fenced.
- When left to roam freely, dogs can often form packs and harass or kill wildlife. This is especially true in mountain and foothill subdivisions. A pack of dogs… well fed or not… will often kill or mutilate deer and domestic livestock (as we have recently read about in the East Mountain Telegraph). Lone dogs also, when not fenced, can kill an enormous variety of wildlife.
- Unfenced dogs can spread diseases to wildlife especially if the dog’s vaccinations are not up to date. Even if the dog’s vaccinations are up to date, a dog could infect wildlife with diseases that are not covered with vaccinations.
- When left unattended, dogs can be potential food for coyote, bobcat and mountain lion. The East Mountains are mountain lion country. Your dog should be kept in a sturdy, covered kennel or inside your home.
- Dogs that are not fenced can pick up fleas from wild animals. These fleas could infect the dog with bubonic plague. If the dog comes into human contact, the fleas could infect the person with the plague, or if the dog is infected with the plague, the dog could give it directly to the person.
Vaccinate Your Dogs:
- Dogs can spread rabies, distemper, mange and other canine diseases to wildlife.
- Likewise, wildlife can infect dogs with these diseases and the dogs could then infect you with these same diseases.
Other Responsibilities You Have For Your Dogs:
- Respect nature and your neighbor’s space by keeping your dogs quiet and under control.
- Dispose of dog droppings to prevent infections.
Cats in Bear Country
Be responsible for your feline friends too.
Keep your cats indoors:
Cats should be kept indoors if at all possible. If this is not possible, they should not be allowed to roam freely when out of doors. The reasons are as follows:
- Cats kill millions of song birds a year as well as preying upon small ground dwelling wildlife. It is important that you keep your cats under control, especially during the spring nesting season. Leash them or put a bell on them.
- Cats can become part of the food chain when allowed to roam. They are easy prey for mountain lions, bobcats, coyotes, foxes, owls and hawks.
- Cats that are not kept indoors or kept under control when outdoors can pick up fleas from wild animals. These fleas could infect the cat with bubonic plague. Iif the cat comes into human contact, the fleas or the cat could infect the person with the plague.
- Cats can hunt and kill rodents which are carrying Hantavirus and bring it back to your home. If a human comes into contact with the infected rodent, they could then become infected with Hantavirus.
Vaccinate your cats:
- Cats can spread distemper and that can have a devastating result on a wildlife population.
- A cat that does not have its vaccinations up to date could become infected by wildlife.