The New Mexico black bear name can be misleading, as they can actually come in a variety of colors ranging from black, brown, to a cinnamon color (the most popular), reddish, and blonde. The American black bear is the smallest of the three bears found in North America.
Black bears are very intelligent animals and learn easily where they can find food. These bears will travel more than 60 miles to a known food source such as beech trees or even a campsite where they have found food previously. Black bears do not consider humans as food and do not normally attack people. Although, bears could become aggressive if they are trying to access food and a human is in their way.
About Red River Black Bears
An adult male black bear can weigh as much as 400 pounds, though the average is about 250 pounds. Female black bears typically weigh between 150-180 pounds. Black bears can be anywhere between four to six feet tall from nose to tail! In New Mexico, bears have been documented to live between 20-25 years, but they may survive up to 30 years! Due to being hunted by humans who travel here to bear hunt, predation by other bears, and becoming a nuisance and having to be put down, bears only live about 7-8 years in northern New Mexico.
New Mexico black bears begin breeding at the age of five years old and breed between the months of May and July. They give birth to tiny cubs that only weigh 6-8 ounces in January and February. Mama bears give birth to 1-2 cubs at a time. By the time the cubs venture out of the den they weigh between 6-7 pounds!
Bear Hibernation in Red River, NM
Black bears do not hibernate, instead, they enter into a torpor, a modified form of hibernation. Torpor involves physiological changes such as a slight decrease in body temperature and metabolic rate. Although this makes the bears drowsy, mama bears can still defend their cubs from predators like bobcats and coyotes. Black bears have a diet that changes during different seasons. During spring they feed mostly on grass, insects, and berries. As it becomes closer to winter they begin adding nuts and acorns to their meals in order to store fat for the winter.
Each bear paw has five toes and five short curved claws that they use for climbing and digging. Their front feet are about as long as they are wide, whereas their back feet are more narrow and resemble a human foot. Black bears have evolved in the forest where flight behavior is normal. Instead of them fighting other animals, they run away or climb a tree in order to protect themselves.
Visiting Bear Country
When visiting Red River you must remember that this is their home that you are visiting. When you are out in the forest with your dog or little ones, camping in the mountains, or hiking you must always keep your eyes out for bears. Here are some simple rules to follow while visiting the Carson National Forest.
- Guests must throw away all trash in the brown dumpsters located throughout town. There are no dumpsters in the Upper Valley, so you must bring your trash to town to discard it. Some dumpsters are located by the gas pumps on the East end of town, along River Street and High Street.
- Put bird feeders away during the warmer months until there is snow on the ground. Bears love bird feeders for the sweet juice inside them and can smell it from over a mile away. If you put the feeders away it will decrease the number of bears that will show up where you are staying.
- Secure food garbage in an area away from your campsite or house. If you keep any food close to where you stay, the bears will continue to show up looking for something to eat.
- Always keep your pets on a leash while you are in the mountains. Bears normally associate dogs with people, so they will most likely turn and run away. If your dog continues to harass the bear it may turn on the dog and begin to chase it. This will happen especially if there are cubs close by.
- Bring pepper spray or buy some at Taos Mountain Outfitters, which just opened in Red River! Pepper spray may make you feel at ease while hiking through the Carson National Forest and it is very effective in the case that you may need to use it to protect yourself and your family from a protective mama bear.
Many times that a bear is clacking his teeth or slaps the ground with his paws, he is “asking” for space. Rarely does this kind of behavior from a bear result in a human losing their life. Be aware of your surroundings and if you see a bear, slowly back away and go inside.
Fun Facts about the American Black Bear
- Black Bears can only be found in North America!
- During late summer and early fall, they eat continuously and gain about 30 pounds while preparing for winter.
- Black bears are not always black. You will most likely see them sporting a brown or cinnamon color.
- Black bears are surprisingly fast and can outrun the fastest human.
- Black bears can see color, just like humans!
- 85% of a black bear’s diet consists of nuts and berries!
The Black Bears of Red River are captivating to see in their natural habitat but can become a nuisance if proper rules are not followed, like leaving garbage out and putting sweet nectar in hummingbird feeders. It is always advised to our guests to take these precautions to stay safe and respect the land of the bears.