House Committee To Review ‘Bear Bill’ Thursday

Karen Williams of Los Aamos

STATE News:

House Bill 109, WILD ANIMAL BITE & ATTACK PROCEDURES, is on the agenda for review Thursday by the House State Government, Indian and Veterans’ Affairs Committee. This is the bill created by runner Karen Williams of Los Aamos who was attacked by a mother bear protecting her cubs when Williams came too close while running a marathon near the Valles Cadera.

The mama bear was subsequently located and killed so the brain could be tested for rabies. Her 10-pound cubs were eventually rescued from high up in a tree and taken to Cottonwood Rehabilatation Center where donors contributed $12,000 for their care until they were old enough to release back into the wild just in time for hibernation in November. The cost of tracking and killing the bear, then testing the brain for rabies, was considerably more than $12,000.

Williams understood that the bear was not acting out of rabies-crazed aggression, but rather protecting her cubs, and was shocked that the bear had to be shot. New Mexico State Law, however, requires that any wild animal must be killed and the brain examined for the virus. Williams, an emergency room nurse, researched the law and noticed it had “reasonable exemptions”— rabbits and rodents who rarely carry rabies. Her extensive research showed that the possibility of bears contacting rabies is nearly zero. With those facts, she joined with Dist. 43 Rep. Stephanie Garcia Richard to create a Bill with new procedures for deciding which bears to kill (link and link).

Thursday’s Committee Hearings start at 8:30 a.m. in Room 309, with the Bear Bill fourth on the docket. The Committee includes Chair Georgene Louis and members Rodolpho Martinez, Sharon Clahchischilliage, Yvette Herrell, D. Wonda Johnson, Derrick J Lente, William R. Rehm, Dennis J. Roch and G. Andres Romero.

Those unable to attend the hearing, but interested in commenting on the bill can visit https://www.nmlegis.gov/Committee/Standing_Committee?CommitteeCode=HSIVC and scroll to the bottom of the page to click each committee member for contact information. Tell them this bill is common sense, and as Williams said, this saves not only bears, but “the tremendous cost involved in hunting down a low-risk wild animal and doing all the testing involved to check for rabies, which is always negative in low risk animals. It is fiscally responsible to back bill HB 109.”

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