New Mexico’s Black Bears Face A Multitude of Threats

This year, bears need your help more than ever

Last summer, we wrote to you about the perfect storm facing bears in New Mexico, a combination of environmental factors and human intervention that led to one of worst years in history for New Mexico’s black bears. The 2011 toll was appalling—at least 744 bears killed from hunting, depredation, accidents, and, most notably, a huge spike in lethal control by game officers and law enforcement of hungry bears entering towns.



With this overly aggressive management, the state’s bear population is likely to be already at a deficit. In a recent op-ed, Sandia Mountain Bearwatch reports that 45 bears have been exterminated in the Sandias in the past two years, possibly as much as 90% of the mountain range’s total population.

Given all the negative factors facing New Mexico’s native bears, it is sad and disappointing that the New Mexico Game & Fish Department (NMDGF) is not responding to preserve the remaining bears. In the department’s recent Proposed Amendments to the Bear & Cougar Rule, NMDGF has removed the “total sustainable mortality” limits, an established management practice that realistically includes all bear deaths from predation, road-kill, and agency extermination of “problem bears” as well as hunting. Without these limits, only hunting mortality will be counted toward game management zone closures, ensuring many more bears killed in this critical time. See a previous APNM email alert for more information these reckless amendments and how they will affect New Mexico cougar populations. 

2012 can be better

Luckily, this spring has not brought the hard, late frost that wreaked havoc on bears’ natural food supplies in 2011. While it is too early to determine how intense the summer drought will be, normal food stocks (bear diets are mostly herbivorous) will reduce the desperation that led to so many entering communities last year.

Additionally, we can build on recent media attention to inform the public on the plight of bears. In the past month, NMDGF has been promoting overdue efforts in mitigating bear attractants, including a set of new trash dumpsters for Raton, NM. Similar proactive efforts should promoted and undertaken in all northern New Mexico communities. Last August, an Albuquerque Journal editorial summarized the challenges facing bears and called upon the state Game Commission to respond appropriately in reducing hunting kill quotas for the animals; these statements are just as applicable now and must be reinforced in the media.

What you can do

  • Bear-proof your home. Reduce attractants for hungry bears on your property, including feeding companion animals indoors, removing or bear-proofing bird feeders, securely storing garbage, and cleaning barbeque grills. Find more information about bear-proofing here and here. Calls to NMDGF about “problem bears” should not replace these common-sense tips, as removal is traumatic and sometimes deadly for the bears.
  • Raise awareness. This is a critical time for New Mexico’s bears. Tell your friends and acquaintances and write a letter to your local newspaper about the challenges these vital animals face and the need for a thriving population of black bears.
  • Contact the Game Commission and the Governor. On June 21, the state Game Commission will be issuing a final vote on the bear and cougar hunting proposals by NMDGF. Please contact the commissioners to politely voice your opposition to these shortsighted, irresponsible amendments. Also, please write or call the Governor’s Office to add your concern on the emergency conditions for bears and ask her to direct the Game Commission back to responsible wildlife management.

It’s time to take a stand for New Mexico’s bears—please add your voice on behalf of responsible management and the value of bears beyond mere hunting targets.