As shown in this photo taken within the last week, bears have been sighted near the road leading up to the recently re-opened LA Reservoir. Hikers and bikers in this area – or using any of the nearby trails around Los Alamos and White Rock – are urged to take extra precautions. Hike with a bear bell or make noise while hiking and be aware of your surroundings and signs of wildlife along the way. Surprising a bear when out on the trails – especially a mother bear protecting a cub – could place you in a dangerous situation. Review the guidelines to keep you and your property safe from wildlife such as bears or mountain lions, as recommended by the US Fish and Game office in the report “Living with Large Predators” detailed below. Courtesy/Los Alamos County
Los Alamos County officials would like to remind the public that springtime typically brings with it an increase of large predators roaming throughout the forests and traveling on the trails surrounding the area – and that means some of these animals will likely enter the community’s residential areas, too. They are seeking food or water, especially during times of drought. In our area, large predators can include mountain lions, black bears, bobcats and coyotes.
Review the following guidelines from New Mexico Game & Fish related to areas where you may encounter these animals. Parents are encouraged to discuss these guidelines with their children.
On your property or around town:
- Closely supervise children whenever they play outdoors. Make sure children are home before dusk and are not outside before dawn. These are the times that large predators are most active.
- Structure landscaping so that it eliminates hiding cover for predators. You don’t have to remove all vegetation but enough so you can detect a predator if it comes into your yard. Make it difficult for them to approach unseen.
- Install outside lighting, preferably with motion sensors. Light areas where you walk.
- Close off open spaces below porches and decks.
- Don’t plant non-native shrubs and plants – it can often encourage prey species to come onto your property. Predators follow prey.
- Roaming pets are easy prey. Bring them in at night. If they must stay out, confine them to a kennel with a secure roof. Do not feed pets outside where they or their food can attract predators or other small mammals like raccoons which predators prey upon.
- Store your garbage securely. If a predator doesn’t find abundant food, it will move on.
In the forest or on the trails:
- There are no definite rules about what to do if you meet a large predator. In most cases, the animal will detect you first and will leave the area. Attacks are rare compared to the number of encounters. However, if you do encounter one, here are some suggestions. Remember: Every situation is different with respect to the animal, the terrain, and the person.
1. Stay calm.
If you see a predator that hasn’t seen you, calmly leave the area. As you move away, talk out loud to let the animal know of your presence.
Back away slowly while facing the predator if you can do so safely. Avoid direct eye contact. Don’t run as this might stimulate its instinct to chase and attack. Give it plenty of room to escape.
3. Do all you can to appear larger.
Raise your arms and open your jacket if you are wearing one. If you have small children with you, protect them by picking them up so they don’t panic and run.
4. Never approach.
Wild animals are unpredictable, however, they will usually avoid a confrontation unless pushed into one.
5. Watch for young.
Coming between a female and her young can be dangerous. If a young animal is nearby, try to move away from it, being alert for others that might be around.
6. Convince it you’re not prey.
If the animal approaches closer or behaves aggressively, arm yourself with a large stick, throw rocks at it, and speak louder and more firmly to it. Convince the predator that you are dominant and a danger to it.
7. Fight back.
If a predator does attack, fight back aggressively. Use any possible objects such as rocks, sticks, backpacks, caps, jackets or even your bare hands.
For more information:
The New Mexico Department of Game and Fish is responsible for managing, conserving and protecting wildlife within the state. If you have a potentially life-threatening situation with a large predator, or if an injury occurs, contact the Department of Game and Fish, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, at the phone number listed below. After hours, contact the Los Alamos Police Department or the New Mexico State Police. Sightings or encounters with large predators are not that uncommon and you are not required to report them.
New Mexico Game and Fish Department Main Office is at 1 Wildlife Way, Santa Fe, NM 87507. Call 505.476.8000 or visit www.wildlife.state.nm.us.