Mila Shelehoff watched a bear that had been foraging in her Hyde Park Estates neighborhood for a week began to vomit, appear weak, and then died two days later in a wooded area near her home.
Seeing the bear suffer a slow death and having to explain this to his young son was unsettling, said Shelehoff, who suspects the animal may have been poisoned.
“It was heartbreaking to watch,” she said.
The New Mexico Game and Fish Department is investigating whether the bear was poisoned.
Agency spokesman James Pitman said he couldn’t discuss details on the case, but noted that an autopsy – an autopsy for an animal – is usually done in those cases.
If someone purposely poisoned the bear, it would fall under the state’s animal cruelty laws, Pitman said.
An animal rights activist said that a person who intentionally killed an animal with poison could face charges under the terms of the Extreme Cruelty Act, making it a fourth degree crime. In New Mexico, this crime rate can be punished with up to 18 months in prison and a fine of $ 5,000.
“If someone has poisoned an animal, be it a wild animal or a pet or a companion animal, it is still considered animal cruelty under state law,” said Alan Edmonds, animal welfare director for animal welfare in New Mexico.
Edmonds added, however, that something else could have killed the bear.
Hyde Park Estates, just south of the Santa Fe Ski Basin on Hyde Park Road, is bordered by mountainous woodland – the type of neighborhood commonly referred to as the urban wilderness intersection where bears and other predators are more likely to cross borders.
Bear sightings are more common this time of year, wildlife managers say, as the animals look for food to prepare for hibernation.
This is the second time in a month that a bear has died after wandering into a neighborhood.
In September, a mother bear was fatally struck by a driver near Santa Fe National Cemetery. One of the two young animals they accompanied was caught in the cemetery the next day and taken to an animal shelter. The other boy was never found.
The Hyde Park bear had been around almost every day for about a week and then got sick on Monday and vomited before strolling into a wooded area, Shelehoff said.
She called Game and Fish to report the sick bear.
She also feared that if someone spilled poisoned food, her dogs, who roam freely in the area, might eat it.
Pitman said the officers went into the forest but the bear left. They told Shelehoff to call again and “keep her posted” if she spotted the bear, but she didn’t call back until Wednesday after it died.
Shelehoff remembers the week differently. She said she called the agency and others at least once while the bear languished and was disappointed that no officers came until she reported he was dead.
She said she wished one of the agencies had come out and tried to save the bear, who was clearly suffering.
“That makes me very sad,” she said.