New Mexico more lenient on bears than Colorado August 02, 2005 4:36 AM
ALBUQUERQUE (AP) - New Mexico applies the three-strikes-you're-out policy to nuisance bears - a more lenient way of handling the problem than in neighboring Colorado and Arizona.
New Mexico's policy is to trap and relocate bears twice before they are permanently removed from the wild on the third offense, the Albuquerque Journal reported Sunday.
Removing a bear used to mean killing it. State Department of Game and Fish officials now are trying the idea of housing the bears at Albuquerque's Rio Grande Zoo before moving them to more distant locations in the wild.
''It just provides us an opportunity to ... (assess) if there's another way to deal with these bears without killing them,'' said Luke Shelby, assistant director for Game and Fish.
Nuisance bears in Colorado get two chances before being killed.
They get none in Arizona. Pat Barber, a biologist with the Arizona Department of Game and Fish, said a trash-raiding adult bear often is killed on the first offense.
Most states immediately kill bears if they're a threat to public safety. Colorado game wardens killed a bear in July that entered a tent near Colorado Springs and bit a 14-year-old boy, Division of Wildlife spokesman Tyler Baskfield said.
Utah doesn't set a limit on encounters before a bear can be killed. Instead, it judges by behavior - such as being a chronic offender or a threat to public safety or causing significant damage. A bear could be killed the first time it creates a problem or could be relocated six times, spokesman Mark Hadley said.
California and Nevada seldom move problem bears.
''We don't move trouble bears around because then they just cause trouble in another locale,'' said Chris Healy, a spokesman for the Nevada Department of Wildlife.
Nevada generally hazes problems bears back to the wild, such as ones that raid garbage cans, Healy said. Bears that continue to be problems are killed, which happens a couple times a year, Healy said.
California kills bears if they're a threat to public safety, said Lorna Bernard, spokeswoman for the California Department of Game and Fish. Property owners also can get a permit to kill a bear that kills livestock, she said.
Biologists say a bear that has linked humans with food is ''imprinted,'' which usually means trapping and relocating won't work.
''That is a bear that is not going to go out and act like a bear anymore, no matter how far away it's moved,'' Shelby said.
New Mexico and other states thus focus on educating people so they don't unintentionally attract the animals by setting out bird feeders, leaving fallen fruit beneath their trees or putting trash into containers that bears can easily open.
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