Mountain & Trail News

    New Mexican Bear Sought After Tearing Into Tent and Scratching Young Girl

    Image is not of the bear involved in the story.

    The Department of Game and Fish was still trying to catch a black bear Thursday that ripped a camper’s tent and scratched a young girl in the Ponderosa Campground of Bandelier National Monument early Wednesday morning.

    According to park rangers, the girl and her mother were awakened by a bear scratching on their tent. After the bear tore a small hole in the tent, scratching the girl, the two emerged with flashlights and scared the bear away. The mother, leader of a cub scout troop using the campground, took the troop to a nearby motel and treated the young girl’s injuries. They returned to the campground for their gear later Wednesday morning.

    The National Monument closed the campground until further notice, and a Department conservation officer set a trap for the bear. If caught, it most likely will be killed as standard procedure when a bear exhibits aggressive behavior and causes a human injury.

    Park rangers said the campers admitted to having some toothpaste and lip balm in their tent. Both items have been known to attract hungry bears. The Department recommends that campers never keep food or toiletry items in their tent while camping in bear country.

    If you see a bear and consider it a safety threat, please contact your local Department of Game and Fish conservation officer, police or sheriff’s office. You also can call the Department office in Santa Fe at (505) 476-8000, or area offices in Albuquerque, Raton, Roswell and Las Cruces, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

    If you live or camp 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.
    • Never intentionally feed bears to attract them for viewing. If you intentionally or unintentionally feed a bear and the bear becomes a nuisance, you could be cited and fined up to $500 — and the bear eventually may have to be killed.
    • Keep your camp clean, and store food and garbage properly at all times. Use bear-proof containers when available. If not, suspend food, 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.
    • Store toiletries with your food.

    If you see a bear:

    • Stop, and back away slowly while facing the bear. Avoid direct eye contact, as the bear may consider that a threat.
    • Never get between a mother bear and her cubs.
    • If the bear has not seen you, stay calm and slowly move away, making noise so the bear knows you are there.
    • 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 you are on a trail, step off on the downhill side and slowly move away.
    • 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.

    Image courtesy Todd Ryburn (Todd Ryburn on flicker)

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