Continue to be bear aware this fall

The New Mexico Department of Game and Fish would like to remind homeowners and outdoor enthusiasts in bear country to continue being bear aware this fall. Most of New Mexico experienced a dry spring and early summer this year leaving bears—especially mothers with cubs—searching far and wide for food. Summer rains finally brought relief and lots of bear food in recent months. The later arrival of abundant food may leave bears in some parts of the state out feeding into fall to build needed fat reserves before entering their winter sleep. This is particularly likely in areas without large acorn crops.

Bears that appear to be moving through should be left alone. There is no need to report them, even in urban areas. However, bears that exhibit aggressive behavior, stay put in an urban area or show no fear of humans should be reported to the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish or your local law enforcement agency as soon as possible.

Below: Bears that end up in neighborhoods can be dangerous, but there are ways to keep yourself safe and keep bears alive. Photo courtesy of Tammy Didio.

Your safety and the welfare of bear populations are important to the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish. Our goal is to keep bears alive and you safe.

The Department offers the following suggestions if you visit or live in bear country:

  • Never leave fruit from trees and bushes to rot on the ground, as it is a powerful attractant to bears and other wildlife.
  • Remove bird feeders. Bears see them as high-calorie 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.
  • Never intentionally feed bears.
  • Clean and store outdoor grills after use. Bears can smell sweet barbecue sauce and grease for miles.
  • 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 6 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 minimum of 100 yards, the length of a football field, from your cooking area or food storage site.

If you encounter a bear:

  • 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. Give the bear plenty of room to escape, so it doesn’t feel threatened or trapped.
  • Make yourself appear large by holding out your clothing. If you have small children or pets, pick them up so they don’t run.
  • 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.

For more information about keeping bears alive and people safe, please visit:


It is the mission of the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish to conserve, regulate, propagate and protect the wildlife and fish within the State of New Mexico, using a flexible management system that ensures sustainable use for public food supply, recreation and safety—and to provide for off-highway motor vehicle recreation that recognizes cultural, historic and resource values while ensuring public safety.