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Keep the Bears Away

bear safety
Living in an area as close to the Sangres as Vista Redonda, we're likely to find bears in our midst. These encounters are bound to happen from time to time regardless of what preventive steps we take. But there certainly are ways to make our homes and property less inviting.
Here are suggestions New Mexico Fish & Game Officer Desi Ortiz has for homeowners:
  • Above all else, manage garbage wisely. Don't leave loose garbage lying around, not even small amounts. Put garbage in as sturdy a container as possible, ideally ones with lids that snap shut. Best of all are bear proof receptacles. If possible, store garbage cans in a garage rather than leaving them outside.
  • Putting out food for birds or other small animals may attract the species you're hoping for, but it will also attract bears. If you decide you still want to put out that hummingbird feeder or whatever, it's best to bring it in at night. But be aware that smells linger and even though the feeder has been removed, bears will still be attracted.
  • If you have an outdoor grill, it's best to clean it after every use. If it's a portable grill, it's better to store it in a garage or shed.
  • It's best not to store food in your garage, even canned foods or jars of preserves. In general, with whatever attracts bears, storage inside the house is better than in the garage; storage inside the garage is better than outside.
  • Bring in pets at night.
  • Outdoor lighting with a motion sensor can encourage a bear to move on.
Here's the advice Desi has for what you should do if you discover a bear on your property, especially if it's close to the house:
  • Make noise and let the bear know you're there. Bang a pot. Bang on the window. If you have a klaxon or other type of horn, use it.
  • If it's dark, turn on outdoor lighting or even turn it on and off rapidly.
  • The point is, do what you safely can to create an uncomfortable environment for the bear.
What about encountering a bear while you're out walking? The most likely times to encounter bears are around dawn
or dusk. There are no definite rules and every situation is different with respect to the animal, the terrain and the person. Desi has these general suggestions:
  • If you're walking with a dog, it will likely sense the presence of a bear before you do. If you see that your dog is on high alert, you should be too.
  • If you're walking in an arroyo or wooded area, make some noise as you go. It's better to let a bear know you're coming than to surprise it.
  • If you're going to walk in bear habitat, you might consider carrying pepper spray.
  • If you do encounter a bear, don't run. If you do, that's likely to trigger its instinct to chase and attack.
  • If you have small children with you, pick them up so they don't panic and run. Back away slowly, if you can, facing the bear, but avoid eye contact.
  • If you sense the bear may not be willing to let you leave quietly, do all you can to appear larger so raise and wave your arms and/or open and flap your jacket if you're wearing one.
  • If the bear approaches closer or behaves aggressively, arm yourself with a large stick, throw rocks, speak loudly and firmly to it. Do your best to convince the bear you are dominant and a danger to it.
  • If the bear attacks, fight back aggressively using any object you can.