ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) - New Mexico Game and Fish says it could be one of their biggest years for bear-related problems after three more bears were either caught or killed near Albuquerque on Friday.
While the department is still crunching official numbers, it says it has dealt with at least 50 different bears in the metro area and East Mountains this year alone.
Crews caught two bears in the northeast part of Albuquerque Friday morning, both of which were huddled up in trees.
The first happened around 6:40 a.m. near Anaheim Avenue and Wyoming Boulevard near La Cueva High School and Desert Ridge Middle School. Neighbors nearby spotted a bear in a tree above the play yard at La Petite Academy day care, which hadn’t opened for the day.
“We've never had a bear or any other wildlife that I've seen other than lizards or geckos that come around,” said Bob Parker, who lives near the bear.
Game and Fish officers eventually tranquilized the bear, getting him to fall out of a tree and onto an airbag.
“They're looking for food. They hit these arroyos, and they come down and they end up in the middle of Albuquerque,” said Ross Morgan, northwest regional education and information officer for the Department of Game and Fish.
Game and Fish says the 80-pound female bear is in good shape and will likely be moved to another area.
Just a few hours later, Game and Fish had to deal with another bear, this one huddled in a tree in the middle of a residential cul-du-sac near Eubank Boulevard and Candelaria Road. Officers were also able to tranquilize the bear, which was much bigger than the first they encountered.
“This female is about 130 pounds," morgan said. "She's in pretty good shape, not skin and bones, so she's obviously found some food somewhere."
Neighbors there say a bear is also a rare sight as their homes are about two miles from the Sandia Mountains foothills.
“It's amazing they're coming down this far to get food,” said Douglas Hamilton, a neighbor watching the incident.
A third bear was also found this morning, however, it was dead after being hit by a car on Interstate 40 eastbound near Juan Tabo Boulevard.
In all three cases, none of the bears were tagged, so game officers had never come in contact with them. With at least 50 bears causing problems this year in the metro area, officers believe this season will stick out.
“Hopefully by the end of August those acorns will start ripening up and these bears will stay on the mountain where there's plenty of food," Morgan said. "But it's apparent that they're still coming down, they're still looking for that food source, the trash the bird feeders and things like that."
Game officers expect to have more numbers next week regarding exactly how many bears have been captured or killed this year statewide. The numbers keep growing from 24 bears killed in 2009 to 88 in 2010 and 228 in 2011.
Some groups are continuing to push for feeding stations to be set up in the mountains during the drought to keep bears out of the city. So far, the state has not supported the idea.
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