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Editorial: Cut hungry bears a break

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Bears gotta eat, too. And no one’s setting out bowls of porridge for New Mexico’s hungry bears. But the N.M. Game and Fish Department should consider it.

Despite a few recent rains, the state remains in a drought, and black bears, the state animal, are becoming desperate for food. Desperate bears will head for the city to find it. So far more than a dozen have met their fate in the pursuit of something to eat.

Wildlife lovers are calling for Game and Fish to do temporary diversionary feedings to help the bears through this patch of scarce food supplies. The feedings involve putting out food in the bears’ natural habitat so they won’t go to town to check out people’s garbage cans or jump into Dumpsters looking for a leftover Big Mac and fries.

State Game and Fish officials oppose the feedings, saying they can have negative consequences down the road, particularly when bears associate food with people. Bear advocates say the feedings have been successful elsewhere, pointing to Washington, Nevada and Oregon.

No one is advocating that the general populace start leaving snacks out for the bears. In fact that’s illegal and punishable by hefty fines. But the fact a bear bit a man inside a Sandia Heights home recently exemplifies why feeding the animals in their natural habitat makes more sense than leaving them to make food runs into town.

Meanwhile, bear-wary New Mexicans might learn from the residents of Raton, who have reached a rather blasé “relationship” with 25-30 bears that hang out sleeping by day and ambling around by night checking out what the town’s trash bins have for dinner.

Game and Fish should reconsider its position and give the bears a break – but high up in the mountains, away from people. It’s the humane thing to do.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.

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