Large black bear shot west of city
June 29, 2022
New Mexico Game & Fish earlier in June warned that bears might roam from the woodlands in the northern part of the state due to drought.
About that time, that apparently happened just west of Tucumcari.
A rural Tucumcari man's daughter and her boyfriend shot and killed an unusually large black bear on June 18 after the animal broke into the man's chicken coop and ate one of the birds.
Andrew Swapp, a department chair at Mesalands Community College's wind-energy center, lives off Quay Road AT west of Tucumcari, near one of the irrigation canals.
Swapp said he first encountered the bear on his property on June 13 or 14 after he heard his dog barking furiously. He fired shots in the air to scare off the animal, as he was unsure whether he could shoot the bear legally. (He later received confirmation a property owner can kill a bear if it threatens livestock.)
On June 18, when Swapp was out of town, the bear tipped over a feed barrel, broke into his chicken coop and grabbed and killed one of the chickens. The bear also left a paw print on the window ledge of his home.
Swapp's daughter Sherra noticed one of the coop's chickens loose in the yard, squawking loudly, and went to investigate. She saw the bear, retrieved a shotgun and shot the animal, which quickly climbed into a nearby tree.
Neighbor Ram Miller, who is Sherra's boyfriend, grabbed his gun and shot the treed bear, which fell dead.
Game & Fish Sgt. Andrew Teachner took a DNA sample and one tooth from the dead bear. Teachner said the DNA is kept for future possible scientific studies on bears, and the tooth sample can determine the animal's age.
Teachner had to use an end loader to load the animal into the back of his pickup truck. He said the animal weighed between 200 and 300 pounds.
"He said it was one of the biggest black bears he'd seen in this area," Swapp said.
Swapp noted the bear left scat that indicated it had been feasting on mulberries. He said a neighbor has several mulberry trees on his property.
He noted the black bear was more of a cinnamon color, which is common in the West because the summer sun somewhat bleaches their fur.
Swapp said the game warden told him the bear ventured south, looking for food, from the northern New Mexico woodlands because of drought and wildfires. Swapp surmised the animal wandered mostly along the canal because of a greater possibility of water there.
One notable time a bear wandered into Tucumcari city limits was 2017, when a 125-pound brown bear climbed into a tree on South Seventh Street and West McGee Avenue. Game officials tranquilized, removed and eventually euthanized the bear because it exhibited "unacceptable behavioral traits."
A young bear also was reported earlier this month in a Santa Rosa neighborhood, though it was not captured or killed.
Teachner said the Tucumcari area has two to three bear sightings a year, though it can go years without one if food remains plentiful up north. He said in the past month in Tucumcari, bears have been sighted on North Rock Island Street and on South Date Street, near the radio station.
A bear also was killed by vehicle near the ruins of the Tucumcari Truck Terminal on the city's west side.
Teachner said bears typically are nocturnal animals and shy away from people.
Game and Fish gave this advice for anyone encountering a bear:
If you encounter a bear:
• Make yourself appear large by holding out your jacket. If you have small children, pick them up so they don't run.
• Give the bear plenty of room to escape so it doesn't feel threatened or trapped. If a black bear attacks, fight back using anything at your disposal, such as rocks, sticks, binoculars or even your bare hands. Aim for the bear's nose and eyes.
• If the bear has not seen you, stay calm and slowly move away, making noise so the bear knows you are there. Never get between a mother bear and her cubs.
Anyone experiencing a problem with bears should contact a regional Game & Fish office or local law enforcement for assistance.