ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Someone is tampering with traps, Game and Fish Dept. believes
Someone obviously does not want this bear caught – even though it entered a home and bit a man’s hand last week.
The trap placed in the yard of the Sandia Heights home has been tampered with twice.
And that’s just one of the problems the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish is having with catching this particular bear. Other problems include the fact that the victim didn’t report the bite, and that he then promptly left the state.
The bear in question surfaced about 6 a.m. Friday in the Sandia Heights neighborhood. After finding its way inside a house on Rock Ridge Drive NE, it chomped a man’s hand.
“The bear breaks in. The man is trying to figure out what he’s going to do. The bear bites him on his hand,” is how it all went down, according to Rachel Shockley, a department spokeswoman. She didn’t know if it was his right or left hand that the bear took a taste of or how seriously the hand was injured.
But it was serious enough that the victim, whose name the department did not release, visited a doctor, who ultimately reported to the department what happened.
“He goes to the doctor, the doctor’s wondering about the bite, and that’s when it comes out it’s a bear, and that’s how we found out about it, which makes it more difficult for us,” Shockley said.
The delay in finding out about the bite slowed down the department’s action.
“Usually someone would report it right away,” she said.
The department went out to the home with a million-dollar view, only to learn that getting to the bottom of things would not be so easy. The person who had been bitten was no longer in the area, having departed for Oklahoma, Game and Fish spokesmen said.
The home is listed as belonging to a family who was not home Monday afternoon, and it was not clear what the relationship was between the victim and the homeowners or if the victim was in fact the homeowner.
The department on Friday night set up a white metal cage on wheels to catch the bear. Approximately 4 feet tall and wide and about 8 feet deep, it was left in the home’s south yard. If a bear were to enter the trap, its weight on the plate on its floor would trigger the door to snap shut with the bear inside.
The first effort to foil the trap was when its door was shut, apparently manually, by someone other than the bear. The trap door didn’t shut itself, and, “We don’t think it got shut by the wind, either,” Shockley said in a telephone interview Monday.
Next, someone was captured on video pouring a substance at the entrance to the trap. In a 10-second video the department released Monday, a slender individual can be seen standing close to the trap, wearing a sweatshirt with a hood up and a mask concealing the lower half of his or her face.
“Our assumption is it was someone who put something on the ground to deter the bear from going into that trap,” said Ross Morgan, another department spokesman.
The department said the person who sabotaged the trap has “put area residents in danger” and could face charges if apprehended.
On Monday afternoon, the trap, loaded with a bag of black cherries and some plums, stood alone and empty.
If the bear shows up and gets caught in the trap, the bear will be killed.
“The department needs to catch the offending bear to prevent anyone else from being injured by it,” reads a statement Game and Fish released Monday.
“The state Department of Health also requires that any wild animal that bites a human to be killed and tested for rabies.”
Already this year, more than a dozen Sandia bears have been killed because they came in contact with humans and were considered dangerous.
This bear’s behavior touches on a public debate over whether to provide supplemental food for bears. A multi-year drought has made food scarce, and bears in the foothills of the Sandia Mountains have become accustomed to making meals out of trash and pet food left out for dogs, cats and birds.
Some advocates support diversionary feeding, which involves placing food in remote areas to draw, or divert, bears from foraging in areas where they’re more likely to encounter humans. Game and Fish officials said last month, however, that they don’t support the supplemental feeding of bears because it would create more problems than it might solve.