US Forest Service announces closures in Cibola Forest due to bear activity
David Lynch and Kai Porter
August 12, 2017 06:56 PM
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – U.S. Forest Service officials on Saturday announced several closures in Cibola National Forest due to increased bear activity, which has led to confrontations between bears and outdoor enthusiasts in the area.
Officials say the increase in reported bear sightings isn’t unusual this time of year, when the animals typically roam where there is more food to be found.
As a result, the following picnic sites and trails are temporarily closed.
- Picnic grounds at Sulphur Canyon, Cienega Canyon and Doc Long.
- Trail 148 at Cienega Spring.
- Trail 196 at Bill Spring.
- Trail 281 at Sulphur Canyon.
- Trail 266 at Horse Bypass.
Caryl Thomas and Shelley Baqet were visiting the area on Saturday, taking selfies in front of signs warning of bear activity in the area.
"I took some pictures for my sister in Texas who loves to hike, and I'm going to joke with her and say we went hiking anyway," Thomas joked.
Crystal Powell, a ranger in the area, said the decision to close the trails and picnic areas in question came after a reported too-close-for-comfort encounter over the weekend.
"We had a large male bear that...was huffing and puffing at people, and approaching the picnic sites where people were actually picnicking," she said. "That obviously raised a concern for us."
Powell added that the precautions aren't just for the public's safety, but for that of the bear population as well.
"A fed bear is a dead bear. Once they get that taste of human food, they keep coming back, then they become a nuisance bear and then it has to be dealt with," Powell said. "So we don't want that to happen."
Despite the closures, there are still plenty of other areas open in the Cibola National Forest for hikers to enjoy, so long as -- like Thomas and Baqet -- they don't mind sharing the space.
"This is their environment and they're attempting to raise their cubs and prepare for winter," Baqet said. "I would rather give the bears their space than the people. I think we need to share the forest and nature with the animals."
Forest Service officials say the closures will remain in place until the end of October, but they will be monitoring the conditions with the bears and say they could re-open the picnic areas sooner if possible.
The New Mexico Game and Fish Department provided several tips when venturing into bear country, including making sure never to leave food and other sweet-smelling items out overnight, cleaning and storing grills after use, keeping campsites properly clean, and never trying to feed bears.
David Lynch and Kai Porter
Updated: August 12, 2017 06:56 PM
Created: August 12, 2017 02:02 PM
Copyright 2017 KOB-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved