The man was not injured by the bear. He reported Thursday evening that he was searching for antlers in the forest between Carrizozo and Capitan when he encountered the bear as he came over the top of a hill. He told officers that the bear charged and he shot it with his .30-30 caliber rifle from about 10 yards away.
Department of Game and Fish Officers investigated the incident and recovered the carcass of the bear, an adult female, early Friday morning. There was no evidence to indicate the presence of cubs.
Referring to the man who shot the bear, Game and Fish Corporal Curtis Coburn said, “Based on a thorough review of the scene, I believe he had little or no choice but to take the action that he did.”
The incident was the second this week in which bears were surprised by people searching for shed antlers. Monday, a 55-year-old man was scratched and bitten by a bear about 30 miles from the area of Thursday's incident. Officials said it is unlikely the same bear was involved in both encounters and cautioned the public to be attentive to their surroundings when searching for shed antlers in areas known to be inhabited by black bears.
Here are some ways to protect yourself if you live in or visit bear country.
If you encounter a bear:
- Stop, and back away slowly while facing the bear. Avoid direct eye contact, as the bear may consider that a threat. Do not run. Make yourself appear large by holding out your jacket. If you have small children, pick them up so they don't run.
- Give the bear plenty of room to escape, so it doesn't feel threatened or trapped. If a black bear attacks you, fight back using anything at your disposal, such as rocks, sticks, binoculars or even your bare hands. Aim for the bear's nose and eyes.
- If the bear has not seen you, stay calm and slowly move away, making noise so the bear knows you are there. Never get between a mother bear and her cubs.
- Keep garbage in airtight containers inside your garage or storage area. Place garbage outside in the morning just before pickup, not the night before. Occasionally clean cans with ammonia or bleach.
- Remove bird feeders. Bears see them as sweet treats, and often they will look for other food sources nearby.
- Never put meat or sweet-smelling food scraps such as melon in your compost pile.
- Don't leave pet food or food dishes outdoors at night.
- Clean and store outdoor grills after use. Bears can smell sweet barbecue sauce and grease for miles.
- Never intentionally feed bears to attract them for viewing.
- Keep your camp clean, and store food and garbage properly at all times. Use bear-proof containers when available. If not, suspend food, toiletries, coolers and garbage from a tree at least 10 feet off the ground and 4 feet out from the tree trunk.
- Keep your tent and sleeping bag free of all food smells. Store the clothes you wore while cooking or eating with your food.
- Sleep a good distance from your cooking area or food storage site.