Bear sightings increase

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By Gabriel Vasquez

Noticed that your block of bird feed has disappeared overnight?

Perhaps your fruit trees have been mysteriously depleted?

Chances are, a bear has taken a liking to the edibles in your backyard.

“They’re opportunistic,” said Philmont Taylor, Los Alamos County emergency management coordinator. “They’re omnivores, they’ll eat anything.”

Reports have started coming in from area residents who say bears have started to invade their stash of bird feed or have been pawing around their property searching for something to eat.

“I saw the lilac bushes moving very fast and I knew there was something out there,” said William Bernard, who spotted a bear in the backyard of his Barranca Mesa home. “I saw a paw come out above the knee wall. He saw me but didn’t seem to care; he was pretty casual.”

Bernard said various types of birdseed, including a birdseed block that the bear seemed to prefer, are strewn about his backyard.

He said he did not feel threatened by the young, medium-sized bear, and went as far as going outside to snap a couple of close-ups. The bear eventually made its way down the edge of the canyon where it reunited with a group of cubs.

“I’ve been living here for over 40 years and this is the second or third time I’ve seen a bear. About ten years ago a mother bear walked across my patio with her two cubs.”

Black bears, which occur in all mountainous areas of New Mexico including Los Alamos, begin to leave their dens after hibernation between mid-March and mid-May.

In another Barranca Mesa home, near Barranca Mesa Park, a woman spotted a bear in her neighbor’s cherry tree munching on the appetizing fruit.

“He looked starved,” said Cynthia Springer. “He was coming every day, he didn’t seem afraid of us.”

Springer said the bear, who looked very thin, was young and extremely interested in what her neighbor’s backyard had to offer. It’s not the first time a bear has roamed the area, she said. She has heard from other residents that it has happened in the past, but she wasn’t there to witness it until early last week.

“The starvation thing is stronger then the fear of anything, including people,” she said. “The game and fish people were called but they didn’t come. If they take him away he’ll just come back.”

Given the proximity of both sightings, it is possible the bear Springer and Bernard spotted were on in the same. Pictures submitted by both homeowners indicate a strong resemblance.

“We want to build our houses out in the woods away from the city and we’re putting ourselves in their habitat,” Taylor said. “It’s just like going camping out in the woods. You’re in their turf and they behave according to their rules.”

Just last week, a Pinos Altos man was killed by a mountain lion who apparently fed on parts of his body after injuring him.

Robert Nawojski, 55, lived alone in a small mobile home and liked to bathe and shave on a rock ledge about 60 yards from his house. Game and Fish authorities determined he was attacked just below the ledge, and the lion apparently dragged his body a short distance before feeding on it and burying part of the remains.

“Attacks by wildlife may become more frequent as our growing population expands into the urban-wildland interface,” said Rick Winslow, the department’s large carnivore biologist in a statement.

On Wednesday, officials reported fatally injuring the lion responsible for the attack, an average-sized adult male weighing approximately 125 pounds.

Taylor said residents who encounter bears or other dangerous wildlife in their property should abstain from feeding them, and as a preventive measure, should remove any edible material from their backyard.

“If you see a bear, it’s not like the yogi bear cartoon,” he said. “You don’t want to play with them or anything. They’re wild animals. Don’t volunteer to be part of the food chain.”

If you spot a bear on your property, or another residential area, contact the Game and Fish offices at 505-476-8000.

Some tips from Game and Fish on how to keep bears away from your home:

• Garbage should be stored in closed containers that are kept indoors, such as a shed or garage. Never leave garbage out in the open, especially if you live in a wilderness area.

• Pet food, likewise, should also be stored indoors.

• Bird feeders should be set out with only enough feed for one day.

• Fruit trees should be planted at a reasonable distance away from your house. Fruit should be picked as it ripens, and spoiled fruit that falls to the ground should be immediately removed

• Woodpiles should be kept away from the house, because they attract rodents that bears like to eat.

• Compost piles should be kept away from the house.

• Beehives and chicken pens, along with other livestock should be kept away from the house and protected with electric fencing if possible.

• Barbecues should be cleaned after each use and stored indoors.