ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – When bears come down from the mountains and are found wandering around in the city limits, they’re usually taken to one of two rehab centers in New Mexico.
Now, one of those centers is being criticized for the size of its facility and how much room it gives the bears to roam.
Staff who work with bears before they’re released back into the wild said their resources are limited. And with the drought conditions, at times, they’ve had to turn bears away. It’s something staffers don’t want to have to do.
Bears have often come too close for comfort in the city limits, searching for food, since the drought has been tough on the animals.
“They’re young bears, they’re in trouble or starving, or sick or separated from their mom,” explained Katherine Eagleson, Executive Director of the Wildlife Center in Española. “We hold them here until they’re releasable, sometimes that means all winter.”
Game and Fish bring the bears to the Wildlife Center for rehab.
Normally two bears stay in 1,200 square feet enclosures. But when staffers posted a video on Facebook of the animals playing in the water, they received some criticism for the area being too small for the big bears.
“We have concerns about that too,” said Eagleson. “It’s not the best, it’s not optimal, we know that, we are ready to go on with another way of rehabbing, keeping bears temporarily in a situation like this.”
Only six bears at a time can fit at the facility. The Wildlife Center said the bears are getting the proper treatment, but they’re still hoping to expand because so many bears need help. Most bears brought to the facility are malnourished.
“They were really emaciated, they were about half the size they should be based on their age, some of them had infections, mouth lesions, they couldn’t eat,” explained Kerrin Grant, Wildlife Care Director and Nutritionist.
Grocery stores donate much of what the bears eat. At the Wildlife Center, the bears receive vet care, regain strength and learn from each other before they’re released back into the wild.
But staffers at the non-profit say everything is costly. Currently, the facility is working with private citizens who are donating land toward an expansion. “When we can raise the money for the proper bear enclosures, we are ready to go,” said Eagleson.
Workers at the Wildlife Center said there’s only one other place bears can go in the state for rehab. If they can’t fit at either facility, the Wildlife Center says the bears will likely be euthanized in the field depending on their condition. The Wildlife Center is hoping to expand within the next couple years.
Eagleson said 75 to 80 percent of their funds come from individual donations, and they take in more than 120 different species. To learn more, or to donate to the rehab, click here.