An unidentified motorist on Wednesday fatally struck a bear in Santa Fe, and authorities now are looking for her two orphaned cubs wandering in the area.
State wildlife officials found the mother bear’s body near County Road 85 and N.M. 599 after a driver reportedly hit her on Rosario Boulevard near the DeVargas Center — which would mean the mortally wounded animal trudged a mile before dying.
The officers and biologists have set nonlethal, live-capture traps with the hope the cubs will return to where their mother died. But as of late Wednesday afternoon, the cubs were still at large, said Tristanna Bickford, spokeswoman for the state Game and Fish Department.
“Our officers are asking if anybody sees the two cubs without their mother, if they would contact the Game and Fish Department, it would be really helpful,” Bickford said.
The bear was in the city searching for high-protein food, possibly as an early preparation to hibernate in mid-autumn, she said.
Drought conditions don’t appear to be a factor in pushing bears to forage in urban areas any more now than in previous years, with research showing acorns, berries and other staples are plentiful in wilderness areas, Bickford said.
Federal agencies such as the U.S. Forest Service have conducted studies showing the conflict between predators and humans has increased as the so-called wildland urban interface blurs boundaries between the two environments.
“It’s pretty common to have bears in and around Santa Fe and Albuquerque and a lot of our metropolitan areas,” Bickford said.
For that reason, people should be mindful about storing trash and barbecue grills in places that won’t attract wildlife, she said. They also should avoid setting up bird feeders and putting their pets’ food outside, she added.
“Everything that we can do to encourage those bears to stay up in the mountains and their natural habitat,” Bickford said.
Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly reported where the cubs would be kept if they are found.