Thursday, May 11, 2006
Bear Killed by Vehicle on Interstate 40
By Tania Soussan
Journal Staff Writer
Summer is more than a month away, but bear problems already are heating up.
A male black bear was struck by a vehicle and killed as it tried to cross Interstate 40 through Tijeras Canyon early Wednesday morning.
The bear weighed about 125 pounds and likely was 3 to 4 years old, said state Game and Fish Department biologist Rick Winslow.
Game warden Darrell Cole said, "I think it's going to start." He added he expects the drought will drive more bears from the mountains in search of food and that more bears will be killed on I-40.
Cole, who responded to the dead bear Wednesday, said the department normally doesn't start getting bear calls until June.
"We're looking at a long, busy bear season," he said.
On Tuesday, a 150-pound male black bear that wandered into a Santa Fe residential area was tranquilized by a Game and Fish officer and relocated to the Borrego Mesa area in Truchas.
About six weeks ago, a large male bear was killed on N.M. 14 about four or five miles south of I-40, Winslow said.
Bears and other wildlife regularly cross through Tijeras Canyon to travel between the Sandia and Manzano mountains. Some of those animals wander onto I-40 and are struck by vehicles and killed.
To address the problem, the state Department of Transportation plans to incorporate wildlife crossings into reconstruction work between Carnuel and Tijeras.
Game fencing will keep wildlife off I-40 and guide the animals to areas where drainage structures under the interstate can give them a safe passage.
The project is out for bid and construction is expected to begin in August, said Kurt Menke, co-chairman of the grassroots Tijeras Canyon Safe Passage Coalition.
The group hopes to eventually have a vegetated overpass for wildlife to cross the interstate, he said.
According to a study done by Marron and Associates Inc. of Albuquerque, at least 11 bears were killed in the canyon between 2000 and 2003.
Mule deer, mountain lions, bobcats, coyotes and raccoons also have been killed, according to the study.