By Jan Hayes / Sandia Mountain BearWatch on Sun, May 13, 2012
Every day I’m asked the question: Where are the bears this year? And my answer to that question is “they’re gone. … sadly … gone for good.”
In the last two years the New Mexico Game & Fish Department along with a few others have killed or removed approximately 45-plus bears out of an estimated Sandia bear population of 50-plus.
Sandia’s bears have faced many destructive forces: Mother Nature produced a series of drought years, with the final blow of a harsh late frost in the spring of 2011 that killed most natural food sources; a growing, irresponsible human population that moved into these bears’ territory and wanted them removed for getting into their available garbage and bird feeders; an organization that campaigned for killing all bears and cougars from our wildlife areas (especially the Sandias) on behalf of their children; and the final fatal assault, a Game & Fish Department that considered the black bear to be nothing but a nuisance species.
In 2010 and 2011, there were huge public outcries along with multiple newspaper articles and editorials statewide against Game & Fish’s proposed 108 percent increase in bear hunts. Those requests for common-sense management of this species were ignored.
Most people believe that a state game department is there to protect our wildlife. In New Mexico, that couldn’t be further from the truth.
A real eye-opener would be to attend a Game & Fish Commission meeting’s greed-fest. Money and politics are the driving forces, with conservation coming in last, if at all. Meeting after meeting, professional outfitters and hunters are fighting/suing each other for more licenses to kill more wildlife.
In 20 years of attending these meetings, I’ve rarely heard any hunters, ranchers, etc. ask for conservation for a species. Ranchers are there to demand more licenses for resell for wildlife that sometime forage on their ranches, farmers are there to ask for compensation for crop damage, trappers are there to ask for unlimited access to our state and federal lands, anti-wildlife city kooks are there to demand the decimation of bears and cougars.
And the New Mexico Game & Fish Department is more than happy to comply – after all, this is their constituency.
The destruction of Sandia’s bears is just the tip of the iceberg. In 2011, 744 bears were killed statewide. This is more than double the average of the preceding five years.
If Game & Fish’s statewide bear elimination pogrom goes forward as planned with a limit of 664 bears per year to be killed for the next four years, a five-year total of more than 3,400 bears will be killed – or over half of the department’s inflated estimate of the entire bear population.
This doesn’t include rampant poaching, natural die-off and Game & Fish’s new policy to vastly expand depredation.
A serious concern is that the department continues to raise the female-sow hunt limit. To ensure a stable bear population, sound bear biology tells us that no more than 30 percent of a reasonable yearly kill should include sows.
Game & Fish claims that although 44 percent of kills can be sows, hunters are being selective and only 31 percent of kills were sows in the bear hunt last year, which is still too many considering that was the percentage of a huge harvest.
If the largest bear hunts in New Mexico’s history go forward as planned, in a few short years the bear population will necessarily plummet. Hunters will have difficulty finding bears to kill and that means that hunters will no longer be selective, which will result in a devastating sow kill-off.
Sows are the future, and Game & Fish’s unsound management will be responsible for destroying that future. If you don’t believe that can happen here, look to Utah and Arizona, which now have some bear-free mountain ranges.
Gov. Susana Martinez has full control over Game & Fish and what happens to our state’s wildlife, including this state’s mammal, the black bear.
A Journal editorial on Aug. 7, 2010, asked who will hold Game & Fish accountable for the decimation of New Mexico’s bears, warning that it could result in an ecological and social disaster. My question to the governor is, who will answer for this biological disaster should she allow it to continue?
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