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Are There Bears in Angel Fire, New Mexico?

Four elk cows graze in fresh snow at sunrise with the ski runs of Angel Fire Resort visible in the background
Elk in Angel Fire, New Mexico

Angel Fire and the Moreno Valley are abundant with birds and wildlife. Mule deer, elk, and bear can be observed in the valley area and on the mountain trails. You may even be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of a mountain lion or bobcat.

Here are some safety tips regarding potential Angel Fire wildlife encounters:

Give animals space – Wild animals typically don’t attack unless they feel that they or their young are being threatened.

Stay aware – Keep an eye on your surroundings and be cautious, especially in unfamiliar terrain. Wildlife can have vast territories and move around frequently.

Make noise while you hike – This will give any animals a heads up and give them time to move away.

Avoid hiking at dawn or dusk – Animals, including bears, are most active during the quieter, darker hours of the day. In mountain lion country, avoid hiking after dark.

What to Do if You Encounter a Black Bear

  • If the bear is coming toward you, raise your arms to look larger and make lots of noise by yelling and banging pots together. Throw objects to scare it off.
  • If you have food out, quickly secure it in a bear canister or carry it with you as you back away. It’s important to keep the bear from getting your food.
  • If the bear continues to pursue you and seems more interested in the food than you, ditch the food as a last resort and move away.
  • Even if the bear seems harmless, try to scare it off and move away.
  • Never run, stand your ground. A black bear does not want to have you as a meal.

What to Do if You Encounter a Mountain Lion

Mountain lions, also known as cougars or pumas, are secretive animals that are rarely seen in the wild. In North America, they’re found throughout much of the western U.S. and Canada and occasionally in eastern states and provinces. Angel Fire and the surrounding mountains have had regular mountain lion sightings; typically, when they do encounter a human, they will retreat if able to, and attacks are very rare. However, if a mountain lion appears to be too ‘familiar’ around people and doesn’t retreat, the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish [] should be notified immediately. A mountain lion is dangerous when they aren’t afraid. If you do encounter a mountain lion, here’s what to do:

  • Never approach a mountain lion.
  • Stop and don’t run. Running may trigger the animal’s instinct to attack.
  • Pick up small children or move them behind you.
  • Face the mountain lion and don’t take your eyes off it.
  • Try to appear larger than the mountain lion by raising your arms or swinging a jacket around above your head. You can even stand on something to make yourself taller.
  • Talk to it firmly while slowly backing away.
  • If the mountain lion appears aggressive and moves toward you, shout and throw things to try to make the mountain lion realize you’re a potential danger.

What to Do if You Encounter an Elk

Elk are big animals—females can weigh 500 pounds and males 700 pounds—and they can move very quickly and attack if they feel threatened. Elk can be particularly aggressive during mating season, which is generally in the fall. Typically, Elk are very skittish and will run away if approached. They are found primarily in western North America, in mountainous landscapes, which makes Angel Fire and the surrounding areas prime elk location. If you encounter elk, here’s what to do:

  • Keep your distance; aim to keep 50 yards between you and them.
  • Never touch or move elk calves. The parent will typically leave the calf (or fawn) hidden away while they search for food. The offspring are not abandoned; usually, the mom is just out of sight.
  • If an elk approaches you, back away slowly. Give the animal space and allow it to pass.

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