The bears are back in town — and that’s not good for animals or people. But people, at least, can take action to protect the critters.
Longtime Santa Fe residents know the drill. Secure trash cans. Put away bird feeders. Store pet food in a secure location.
The dry conditions in and around Santa Fe mean hungry bears are on the hunt for food. To keep them safe, people have to cooperate by storing goodies where bears can’t get them.
Because when bears and people come in contact, it’s easy for someone — or some bear — to be hurt. Bears that come to depend on humans for sustenance, once caught, are killed. And that’s a bad outcome both for the bear and the ecosystem, which needs bears to keep animals, insects and even plants in check. When food supplies are low in nature, though, bears head to town.
Multiple bears have been sighted, including a sow and cubs, in the foothills of Santa Fe between Canyon Road and U.S. 285, according the Department of Game and Fish. In past years, bears have made it past the foothills all the way to midtown, around Santa Fe High.
Conservation officer Manny Overby said, “Droughts historically have led to a lot of bear conflicts in urban areas, not only in Santa Fe but across the state.”
But those conflicts can be avoided.
Game and Fish recommends that people never feed nor approach bears. Once the critters become used to approaching humans or homes for food, they won’t stop. That’s why it’s important to clean and store grills, secure food, garbage and recycling — odors can draw bears, and people want to avoid that because no one wants bears to come near unprotected people.
If that happens, then it’s important for people to allow the bear lots of room to get away. Don’t make the bears feel trapped. Should a bear approach, people can make themselves appear larger by holding out their jackets; and anyone with small kids should pick them up so they can’t run, according to tips from the state Game and Fish Department. Be sure never to get between a mother and her cub.
All of this is commonsense advice that people living near bears should know, especially when the creatures are hungry in a dry summer.
Should the worst happen and the bear attacks, fight back with rocks, sticks, anything at hand, aiming for the nose and eyes. Even better, don’t let the bear see you and move slowly away. The best bear encounter is one that doesn’t happen. After, all we are living in land that belonged to bears and other wild animals before people intruded. It’s essential to do our part to keep bears safe.