New Mexico Department of Game and Fish officers are searching for an adult black bear involved in the attack of a 56-year-old Los Alamos man Wednesday evening on a hiking trail near Los Alamos.
The man suffered deep flesh wounds and scratches to his head, chest and hands and was being treated at Christus St. Vincent Hospital in Santa Fe.
Conservation officers using dogs are searshing for the bear today with assistance from Los Alamos police and Los Alamos National Laboratory personnel. If found, the bear will be tested for rabies. Rabies in bears is rare but it is a nearly 100 percent fatal disease, so every precaution will be taken.
The trail where the attack occurred, the Canyon de Valle trail north of Los Alamos, is closed until further notice.
According to officer reports, the victim said he was running on the trail at about 7 p.m. when he encountered a female bear and its cub on the trail. The cub ran up a tree. The victim tried to scare the female bear away by making noise, but the bear charged, knocking him into a stream bed, and then started biting and clawing at his head. When the bear stopped attacking and the victim tried to stand up, the bear attacked again and then walked away.
The victim was able to walk 2.5 miles back to his car, where he retrieved his personal identification and flagged down a passing motorist, who took him to Los Alamos Medical Center. The victim was treated for his wounds before being transported to Christus St. Vincent Hospital in Santa Fe.
Bear hair samples were collected from the victim and his clothes to help identify the bear involved in the attack.
The incident was the third this year in which a bear attack resulted in injuries to a human. In early July, a bear bit a Raton girl while she was sleeping in a tent outside her house. In early June, a bear attacked and scratched a man who was hunting antlers in Lincoln County.
Here are some ways to protect yourself if you live in or visit bear country:
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. Never get between a mother bear and her cubs.
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.
- 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.