People, predators share New Mexico’s outdoors in summertime
The following article comes to us from New Mexico,but all indications are that many of our apex predators are increasing not only in numbers but in there collective loss of their fear of people. More and more we are hearing of Bears, cougars, and coyotes having encounters with humans even in areas that were considered “safe” in the past.The New Mexico has listed some steps that we as the “outsiders” can take to keep ourselves and our families safe while we enjoy the great outdoors.
Those venturing into New Mexico’s great outdoors this summer need to be aware that predators are still out there. Although abundant rainfall has kept most predators away from populated areas this summer, there have been some encounters.
Most recently, evidence indicated a pit bulldog was killed by a cougar after the dog broke free from its leash at a campground at Bill Evans Lake on July 22. Department officers believe a cougar was in the area hunting for javelina. No one saw the attack, but bite wounds on the dog indicated it was a cougar. Officers believe the cougar left the area. The lake and campground remain open to the public.
Plenty of food in the high country has kept most bears in the back country, but a few are still venturing into neighborhoods. For one bear, beehives near Tijeras were too much of a temptation.
After the bear ransacked some bee hives, the beekeeper contacted the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish for assistance and a responding officer helped by erecting an electric fence around the hives to keep the bear out. The cost of the fencing was paid through the $3 depredation fee attached to every hunting license.
To help reduce encounters with predators follow these tips:
If you visit or live in bear country:
- Keep garbage in airtight containers inside your garage or storage area. Place garbage outside in the morning just before pickup, not the night before.
- Occasionally clean cans with ammonia or bleach
- Remove bird feeders. Bears see them as sweet treats, and often they will look for other food sources nearby.
- Never put meat or sweet-smelling food scraps such as melon in your compost pile.
- Don’t leave pet food or food dishes outdoors at night.
- Clean and store outdoor grills after use. Bears can smell sweet barbecue sauce and grease for miles.
- Keep your camp clean, and store food and garbage properly at all times. Use bear-proof containers when available. If not, suspend food, toiletries, coolers and garbage from a tree at least 10 feet off the ground and 4 feet out from the tree trunk.
- Keep your tent and sleeping bag free of all food smells. Store the clothes you wore while cooking or eating with your food.
- Sleep a good distance from your cooking area or food storage site.
- Never intentionally feed bears to attract them for viewing.
A good slogan to remember is:
A Fed Bear is a Dead Bear
If you encounter a bear:
- Stop, and back away slowly while facing the bear.
- Avoid direct eye contact, as the bear may consider that a threat.
Do not run!
- Make yourself appear large by holding out your jacket.
- If you have small children, pick them up so they don’t run!
- Give the bear plenty of room to escape, so it doesn’t feel threatened or trapped.
- If a black bear attacks you, fight back using anything at your disposal, such as rocks, sticks, binoculars or even your bare hands. Aim for the bear’s nose and eyes
- If the bear has not seen you, stay calm and slowly move away, making noise so the bear knows you are there.
- When ever you are in bear country carry a can of bear spray and be sure it is easily accessible.
Never get between a mother bear and her cubs.
If you visit or live in cougar country
Here are some ways to protect yourself, your family and your pets from cougars and other large predators:
- Do not let your pets roam around outside.
- Bring them in at night.
- If you keep pets outside, provide a kennel with a secure top.
- Do not feed pets outside where the food can attract cougars or other smaller animals that cougars prey upon.
- Store and dispose of all garbage securely.
- Closely supervise small children!
- Make sure they are home before dusk and not outside before dawn.
- Make lots of noise if you come or go during times when cougars are most active — dusk to dawn.
- Teach your children about cougars and what they should do if they encounter one.
- Place all livestock in enclosed sheds or barns at night. Close the doors to all outbuildings so that an inquisitive cougar is prevented from going inside to look around.
- Do not feed wildlife.
- Use native plants, not non-natives, so as to not attract deer, which are the primary prey of cougars. Remember, predators follow prey.
- Landscape or remove vegetation to eliminate hiding cover for cougars, especially around areas where children play.
- Make it difficult for a cougar to approach unseen.
- Install outdoor lighting, especially in areas where you walk, so you can see a cougar if one were present.
- Close off open spaces below porches or decks.
Cougar encounters and attacks are extremely rare, but if you do encounter a cougar in the wild or in town:
- Do not run from a cougar as fleeing behavior may trigger the instinct of the cougar to attack.
- Stay calm and talk to it firmly.
- Slowly back away slowly if you can do so safely.
- Immediately pick up all children off the ground and tell them to stay calm.
- Face the cougar — do not turn your back — remain in an upright position and look as large as possible (raise your arms, open up your coat, if you’re wearing one).
- Carry a walking stick and use it to defend yourself by keeping it between you and the cougar.
- If the cougar approaches closer or behaves aggressively, arm yourself with the stick, throw rocks or sticks at the cougar, and speak louder and more firmly to the cougar.
- Convince the cougar you are dominant and a danger to it.
- Fight back if a cougar attacks you.
- Use any possible object within reach as a weapon, such as rocks, sticks, jackets, a backpack or your bare hands.
- Cougars have been driven away by prey that fights back.
- Stay standing and if you fall down try to get back up on your feet.
If you have an encounter with a bear or cougar or an attack occurs, please contact the Department at (505) 476-8000 during regular business hours, or your local sheriff’s or police department if you feel you are in danger.
For more information about cougars and living around large predators, please visit the Department Web site and check out the publication, Living with Large Predators in New Mexico.