SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – A Santa Fe family says a healthy young bear known to visit their nearby woods has died of what doesn’t seem like natural causes. Now, they’re worried there could be something out there that could make other animals sick. Mila Shelehoff says the bear came back to a nearby arroyo a few days ago, lethargic and unresponsive. After he died on Wednesday, she believes it may have been poisoned.
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It’s not unusual for New Mexicans to spot the occasional bear but for the Shelehoff family, they’ve had the same bear visit throughout the year. While they’re fairly new to the area, others say he’s been a presence for years, mostly keeping to himself.
“We have lived in the neighborhood since last September and we have seen this bear coming after the hibernation this spring,” said Shelehoff. “Our dog would show him off and the bear would go leisurely into the woods and come back the next night. He was a friendly fella, I would say. We never had any instances.”
However, this week, they knew something was wrong. He showed up a couple of days in a row, lethargic and unresponsive.
“Usually, he was much more agile and not in the daylight,” said Shelehoff. “He would never be sleeping in somebody’s backyard in the daylight.”
Found along an arroyo on the east outskirts of town by Aztec Springs, Shelehoff called around to see if any agencies could help, including the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish. By Wednesday night, the young bear had died along the arroyo. She says it didn’t look natural, with the bear bleeding from different orifices and no external wounds.
“Bears just don’t drop dead and they don’t suffer for such an extensive amount of time,” said Shelehoff. “Watching an animal suffer for three days and not having anybody help the animal was painful, to begin with.”
Game and Fish couldn’t provide details but Shelehoff is worried the bear was poisoned based on the way they found him. She says the whole situation has been distressing, their family is also worried there’s something or someone out there that could endanger even more wildlife.
“Whatever this bear is digesting, could be out there potentially contaminating other animals and pets,” said Shelehoff. She says their family will miss the friendly visitor and hope to get answers soon.
Game and Fish went to collect the bear on Thursday afternoon. The department says they’re investigating the cause of death.