SANTA FE – Winter is fast approaching, and hard times may be ahead for some forest animals.
Heavy snows and extended periods of bitter cold can take a toll on many forest creatures. Winter mortality is nothing to be concerned about since it has been occurring for ages.
What has not been occurring for quite as long; however, is the increased amount of human activity on the forest. Forest officials highly encourage visitors to enjoy the great outdoors, but to also be aware of the surroundings. Besides preparing for the weather, forest users need to be aware of what they should do should they come upon an animal whether it is alive or dead.
When an animal dies in nature, very little, if anything, goes to waste. One animal’s misfortune often means another animal’s life. A whole “host” of species, ranging from mammals to birds to insects, feed on animals that pass away. If you’re in the forest, be aware because you might come across an animal carcass that a large predator, such as a mountain lion or black bear, will claim. It is what they do to survive.
If you come upon an animal carcass, remain calm and leave the area. You may have disturbed a nearby animal that is reliant upon the food source. Mountain lions and bears often seek safety when humans appear, but given their possible dependence on the carcass they could become defensive. If you see or smell an animal carcass make sure you create plenty of noise to alert animals of your presence, and then leave the area.
Should you encounter a black bear or mountain lion on, or near, a carcass, make plenty of noise and make yourself look as big as possible. Do not run. Instead, slowly back up while facing the animal.
If hiking with other individuals, group together to appear large. Black bears and cougars are naturally afraid of humans and will run when they feel threatened. If hiking with your dog, make sure to have your pet on a secure leash.
It’s good to know forest animals prefer that you go about your business as peacefully as they want to go about theirs. Have fun, be safe, and enjoy your time on the forest.
For information on large predators in New Mexico, visit http://www.wildlife.state.nm.us/download/publications/wildlife/Living-with-Large-Predators-in-New-Mexico-2016.pdf, or visit http://www.wildlife.state.nm.us/hunting/information-by-animal/big-game/cougar/.