ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) - An archery bear hunt in New Mexico is set to begin in one week.
Game and Fish says the hunt helps them manage the bear population, but a local group argues too many bears have already died this year and that killing more of them could be devastating to the population.
New Mexico Game and Fish says they have captured nearly 50 bears in the Albuquerque area and another 20 have been put down or hit by cars.
Statewide, the number of bears killed this year is 145. That is just one fewer than the bears killed in the entire year last year and that is not including bears that are hunted.
This has the founder of Sandia Mountain BearWatch worried.
"The Sandia bear population is going to be destroyed if it isn't already,” said Jan Hayes.
She is especially concerned as Sunday, Sept. 1, approaches, the day that marks the start of a bow-and-arrow bear hunt across the state.
In previous years, the state would take into account how many bears have already been put down or killed from accidents to help put a limit on the number of bears hunters can kill. That is not the case this year.
“I don't think this small bear population statewide can take this kind of damage year after year after year,” Hayes said.
Game and Fish admits the bear deaths have been high this year, but they say it is not the worst the state has seen. They say the bear population is actually on the rise and it is their job to keep it at a sustainable level.
"Our bear population estimates are conservative. Actual numbers of bears on the landscape could be two times higher than that,” said Rachel Shockley, spokesperson for Game and Fish.
Game and Fish said it believes the population statewide is in the thousands, but the state is spending more than $100,000 to work on getting an accurate estimate.
Critics say that can cause more problems because bears could become dependent on that food.
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