Mila Shelehoff saw a bear that had foraged for a week in her Hyde Park Estates neighborhood act weakly and then die two days later in a wooded area near her home.
Seeing the bear slowly die and having to explain it to his young son was overwhelming, said Shelehoff, who suspects the animal may have been poisoned.
“It was heartbreaking to watch,” she said.
The New Mexico Department of Hunting and Fishing is investigating whether the bear has been poisoned.
Agency spokesman James Pitman said he could not discuss the details of the case, but noted that an autopsy – an autopsy of an animal – is usually performed in these cases.
If someone deliberately poisoned the bear, it would fall under state animal cruelty laws, Pitman said.
An animal welfare advocate has said that a person who intentionally killed an animal with poison could be charged under the extreme cruelty provision of the law, making it a fourth degree felony. In New Mexico, this level of crime is punishable by up to 18 months in prison and a fine of $ 5,000.
“If someone has poisoned an animal, be it a wild animal, a domestic animal or a pet, it is still considered animal cruelty under the state law, ”said Alan Edmonds, cruelty officer for New Mexico’s Animal Protection.
Edmonds added, however, that something else could have killed the bear.
Hyde Park Estates, northeast of Santa Fe off Hyde Park Road, borders forest land – the kind of neighborhood commonly referred to as the interface of urban wilderness, where bears and other predators are more likely to cross borders.
Bear sightings are more common this time of year, according to wildlife managers, as the animals forage for food to prepare for hibernation.
This is the second time in a month that a bear has died after wandering around a neighborhood.
In September, a mother bear was fatally struck by a motorist near the Santa Fe National Cemetery. One of the two cubs accompanying her was captured the next day at the cemetery and taken to a wildlife refuge. The other bear cub has never been found.
The Hyde Park bear had come almost every night for about a week, then fell ill on Monday before walking through a wooded area, Shelehoff said.
She called Game and Fish to report the sick bear.
She was also concerned that if someone put in poisoned food, her dogs that roam free in the area might eat it.
Pitman said officers visited the neighborhood but could not find the bear. They told Shelehoff to call again and “keep them posted” if she saw the bear, but she didn’t call back until Wednesday, after she died.
Shelehoff said he called several agencies and wished one of them could help the bear, who was clearly in pain.
“It makes me very sad,” she said.