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Organizers serve up food for thought at Bear Feast

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By Tris DeRoma

The first–ever Bear Feast at the Pajarito Environmental Education Center drew a crowd Friday that munched on salmon, grapes, watermelon, celery, peanut butter, candy worms, candy mushrooms, candy acorns and honey-dipped cornbread shaped like a beehives.

The bear buffet menu featured the kind of food bears liked to eat, candy being substituted for what wasn’t edible by humans.

Residents also got to feast on some bear knowledge from wildlife expert Dr. Kathleen Ramsay and bear attack survivor Karen Williams.

Ramsay was linked to William’s attack when the surviving cubs from the attack were sent to Ramsay’s wildlife rehabilitation center in Española. Shortly after the attack, which happened in June 2016, the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish tracked and euthanized the attacking sow to check for rabies.

The sow’s two bear cubs were released from the wildlife center this year, weighing in at a healthy 160 and 140 pounds.

Ramsay talked about the expensive and complicated process of teaching the cubs that arrive at her center how to hunt for their own food and survive on their own in preparation for their eventual release out into the wild. She also talked about their fixation on food and why it’s so important.

According to Ramsay, bears need to gain 40 percent of their body weight between hibernation periods or they will die.

Because of this, bears have a keen sense of smell and a sharp memory.  

“Once they learn, they don’t forget. Once they learn your trash can’s good on Monday night, let me tell you, they know your trash can’s good on Monday night,” Ramsay said.

Williams was attacked June 18, 2016, while running in a marathon event in the Jemez Mountains. She was attacked crossing a meadow by a sow that thought she was a threat to the sow’s nearby cubs.   

Organizers of Bear Feast and the Bear Fest that was held on Saturday were glad both events were well attended. To them, it shows there’s interest to make it an annual event.  

“It’s always good to keep refreshing people’s memories on bear education,” Organizer James Robinson said.