A 200-pound black bear was found wandering in Rio Rancho on Thursday morning, the state Department of Game and Fish reported.
The bear was tranquilized and captured by Game and Fish officers, according to a news release from the department, and will be relocated and released.
“That’s how I started my morning, with a bear in my yard,” said Joan Atwood, who heard her dogs barking Thursday morning and spied the critter resting nearby.
The young male bear was captured in a residential area near Fran Place SE, department spokesman Dan Williams said in an email.
“Our officers did a great job safely catching the bear this morning,” said Game and Fish Maj. Colin Duff in a news release. “Even in the city, it’s important to remember you may encounter wildlife.”
The call came in around 7:40 a.m. and the animal had been captured before 10 a.m., Williams said.
Rick Winslow, the department’s bear and cougar biologist, said he believes current drought conditions may have caused the bear to travel into the populated area in search of additional food sources.
“Historically, during dry conditions and droughts, we see the level of conflict between bears and humans rise,” Winslow said.
Black bears are known to eat green grasses and other plants that rely on moisture to survive, especially during this time of year; Winslow said 90 percent of a black bear’s diet is made up of vegetation.
Add the increase in the bear population the past few years due to average or above-average rainfall, and Winslow said he believes this spring and summer could yield more human and bear interactions than usual.
The biggest step people can take to avoid attracting bears is not leaving trash or food out for the animals, including bird feeders and fruit that has fallen from trees.
“Fermented fruit is very attractive to them,” Winslow said. “They will come looking for it from miles away.”