Drought conditions increase the chances of encountering bears

New Mexico Department of Game and Fish
Public Contact, Information Center: (888) 248-6866
Media Contact, Tristanna Bickford: (505) 476-8027


Drought conditions increase the chances of encountering bears

SANTA FE – Due to drought conditions across the state, the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish urges residents to be aware of the increased risk of encountering bears and other wildlife.

“The state has seen below-average rainfall for this time of year, which means bears may be looking for other food sources,” said bear and cougar biologist Rick Winslow. at the Department. “Droughts have historically led to many conflicts with bears, not only at camping and picnic sites, but also in more populated areas.”

“For bears, almost all of their food resources, such as green grasses and herbaceous plants — flowering and grass-like plants — are supported by moisture,” Winslow said. When these food sources are stressed, bears may begin to move closer to towns and neighborhoods. Bears moving through populated areas can cause problems and can become habituated to humans. Problematic bears deemed a threat may be euthanized.

The Department offers the following suggestions if you are visiting or living in bear country:

  • Keep waste properly contained until day of pickup, especially if you live in or near wooded areas.
  • Never let fruit from trees and bushes rot on the ground. It can be a powerful attractant for bears and other wildlife.
  • Remove bird feeders. Bears view them as high-calorie treats and often seek out nearby additional food sources.
  • Never put meat or smelly food scraps, such as melon, in your compost pile.
  • Do not leave pet food or dishes out overnight.
  • Clean and store outdoor grills after use. Bears can smell sweet barbecue sauce and grease for miles.
  • Keep your camp clean and properly store food and garbage at all times. Use bear-proof containers when available. Otherwise, hang food, toiletries, coolers, and garbage from a tree at least 10 feet off the ground and 6 feet from the tree trunk.
  • Keep your tent and sleeping bag free of food odors. Put away the clothes you wore while cooking or eating with your food.
  • Sleep a safe distance from your cooking area or food storage area. A distance of at least 100 meters is recommended.
    Never intentionally feed bears to attract and observe them.

If you encounter a bear:

  • Make yourself look tall by stretching out your jacket. If you have young children, take them so they don’t run.
  • Give the bear enough space to escape, so it doesn’t feel threatened or trapped. If a black bear attacks you, retaliate 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 hasn’t seen you, stay calm and slowly walk away making noise to let the bear know you are there. Never get between a mother bear and her cubs.

If you have a persistent problem with bears, please contact your regional Game & Fish office or contact your local police for immediate assistance. Visit the Ministry’s website to find contact information for local Ministry offices. For more information on living with bears in New Mexico, please see Keep bears alive and protect yourself.


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