ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) - State wildlife officials say more than two dozen bears have been relocated and more than a dozen have been killed this summer after wandering into the metro-area, likely in search of food. A group of wildlife advocates and environmentalists say they have an idea that would keep bears in the Sandia Mountains fed and out of populated areas.
Jan Hayes is the founder of Sandia Mountain BearWatch, one of the groups asking Gov. Susana Martinez to direct the state's Department of Game and Fish to consider placing food for bears high up in the Mountains.
"I've spent 20 years informing people not to feed bears, but we've got a different situation now," Hayes said.
Sandia Mountain BearWatch and the Rio Grande chapter of the Sierra Club contend bears in the Sandias are surrounded by development and have few options for food, a problem exacerbated by the ongoing drought.
In the past two weeks, they say more than 1,400 people have emailed the Governor's Office in support of the idea.
Hayes said supplemental feeding has worked in other parts of the country, including California and Washington state.
"It's not something you have to do every year," Hayes said. "It's something you do if you've got a real serious problem."
The Governor's Office said such a program would be dangerous for bears and for humans.
Game and Fish has also repeatedly said it does not support supplemental feeding. Officials say bears and other animals could become dependent on the food, and that supplemental feeding could cause the bear population to exceed what the environment can support.
Plus, Game and Fish officers say recent rains should help out hungry bears.
"By September, all those berries are going to come out, the grasses are going to come up," said John Martsh of Game and Fish. "By late September, hopefully the mass crop will come out with the acorns and the bears will have lots of protein at that point."
Officials warn anyone who does leave food out for the bears could face fines, ranging from $5,000 for individuals to $10,000 for organizations.
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