Editorial: Wait for new bear picture

This is one anniversary the state’s official mammal would fear if it knew it was underway – the every-four-year review of the Bear and Cougar Rule.

Public hearings are being held around the state on a proposal that could increase the bear kill limit, currently set at 640 each year, and expand areas where black bears could be hunted.

The state Department of Game and Fish is waiting for results of new bear population studies before recommending to the New Mexico State Game Commission a final rules-change that could set how many bears hunters are allowed to kill each year. The department has estimated there are between 6,000 and 7,000 black bears in New Mexico.

Sandia BearWatch, a bear advocacy group, believes the population is in decline and the department already allows overhunting of the black bear. It is recommending the Game Commission lower the harvest limit to 350 or 400 to ensure a healthy population.

Critics of increasing the limit also are adamantly opposed to a spring hunt, which Game and Fish officials have hinted isn’t out of the question. The opponents have a point, it isn’t a fair hunt to go after mama bears just waking up from winter hibernation – weak, thin, with tender feet and possibly with cubs. That shouldn’t be sporting in anyone’s book.

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In the end, the decision on the new rule should be science based. State officials are correct to wait for new population numbers and habitat information before making any changes to the hunt limits.

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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