TIJERAS, N.M. (KRQE) – An injured bear wandered into a Bernalillo County fire station.
What started as a quiet Father’s Day at Bernalillo County Fire Station 41 between Tijeras and Chilili turned wild when a black bear was discovered in the station bay around sundown.
“It was laying underneath one of our trucks,” Lt. Steve Vaughan, who was on shift that night, said. “Super dehydrated, very lethargic. Not really responsive to us at all.”
The bear wandered in through a small side door, not the large bay doors for the truck. Vaughan says those were closed at the time.
“It’s an interesting thing, I mean, I’ve been in the fire department a little over 15 years and I’ve never seen a bear wander into a fire station before,” he said.
Vaughan said the bear was clearly seeking shelter and wasn’t well. So, they gave it food and water.
“She drank about two gallons of water within the first five minutes,” he said.
The crew called the Game & Fish Department.
“The officer responded, darted the bear,” Ross Morgan with Game & Fish said. “Found that it was severely injured. Just looking at the injuries we can only assume that maybe it was struck by a vehicle.”
Morgan said the wound was bad enough, the nearly 2-year-old bear had to be euthanized.
Morgan said the recent scorching heat has probably forced bears to look harder for food and water. But that doesn’t mean humans should step in, because it will encourage the bears to come back.
“Do not feed wildlife, although you think it may be the right thing, it’s not the right thing to do,” Morgan said.
Vaughan says he understands that, and doesn’t recommend anyone do what he and the 41 crew did that night.
However, he didn’t feel threatened by the bear and knew the end was likely near — giving the bear some comfort and a last meal.
“It’s sad, you know, our new mascot didn’t make it,” Vaughan said.
Game & Fish says a new study found there are about 8,000 black bears in New Mexico — about 25 percent more than previous surveys showed.
Plus, the weather the past few years have created ideal foraging for bears, boosting the population.