Our History

Sandia Mountain Bearwatch was formed in 1994 when 13 bears were trapped in the Sandia Mountains because mountain residents were uninformed on how to live with bears. The group has been an active advocate for bears since then.


Formed SMBW when 13 bears were trapped in the Sandia Mountains because mountain residents were uninformed on how to live with bears. Used 600 protest signatures/names signed in 4 days demanding that the NMG&F educate not trap. We used these protest signatures to establish SMBW. (1994 625 bear killed in the state-wide harvest out of an NMG&F population estimate of 3,000 bears).

NMG&F Bear Biologist
Don Jones with cubs
and tranquilized sow.


Coordinated with NMG&F to start educating mountain residents with "Living with Bear" presentations. Only 1 bear was trapped even though drought was worse. Requested the Cibola National Forest to start bear-proofing garbage bins in all picnic areas of the Sandia and Manzano mountains. Started putting pressure on NMG&F Commission to stop over-harvest ( 1995..526 bears killed in state-wide harvest)


Continued to put pressure on NMG&F Commission to stop over-harvest by using the press. Hired bear biologist Al LeCount to represent us with the help of a Turner Grant of $2,500. He flew to NM several times to talk to the NMG&G Commission and to also give a session to NMG&F personnel who worked with black bear in the state. With LeCount’s help, we tried to get a sow quota to cut down on the over-harvest of sows and pregnant sows using the NMG&F bear study data. (450 bears killed state-wide)


Continued to put pressure on NMG&F Commission by unfavorable press stories. They finally voted for a 1998 limited hunt to start Oct. 15 through Dec. 15. Also hunters had to purchase a bear license before the bear hunt season to stop the high incidental harvest. (285 bears were killed state-wide)


A few new Commissioners press to change the season for 1999 to Oct. through Dec. They also changed the bear licenses back to 2 days before a hunt. (only 148 bears killed statewide).


Outfitters and hound-hunters went all out to get a spring hunt and summer pursuit season. SMBW used bear biology and a report out of California to fight these off. We also used the press. (Only 211 bears were killed in 1999)


Again, an onslaught by Hound-hunters and Outfitters to get a spring hunt and summer pursuit season . SMBW interceded and got the NMG&F Commission to vote no on these hunts. (325 bears were killed statewide)

Photo courtesy of the
New Mexico
Game & Fish Dept.


Hunters have support from at least 4 NMG&F Commissioners to have a spring hunt and/or summer pursuit season. After a very hard battle, the Commission backed away from spring hunt and pursuit for 2002 but opened up an immediate hunt for September 2001 through December. (524 bears were killed in the 2001 hunt/depredation). In October, the NMG&F Commission voted for no 2002 spring hunt or pursuit with hounds but opened up a destructive statewide hunt for August, Bow hunt for September and continued hunts for October and November. BearWatch has consistently used all three TV stations. We’ve generated many articles in the Albuq. Journal and Tribune and East Mountain Telegraph. A large Op-ed article in the Journal. (I can send you the press clippings if you need them).


Approximate 712 bears were killed in the 2002 hunt and depredation. The most ever killed in a hunt/depredation in New Mexico’s history. BearWatch went to the press with the figures from the Sandia and Manzano Mountain’s hunt and depredation citing a two-year approximate 50% loss in this bear population.


The hunt continues statewide for August, a bow-hunt in September, with continuing regular hunts in October and November 15th. We did get the East Mountain hunt reduced to one month October 15 to November 15. There is a discrepancy in the 2003 proclamation allowing an East Mountain bow-hunt in September. We are actively trying to correct this in time to stop this hunt. BearWatch asked the new Commission to stop this 2003 destructive statewide hunt at an April 2003 Commission meeting. Unfortunately, it was rejected but the new Commission did ask for a more conservative plan from NMG&F for 2004 and future hunts. BearWatch’s Jan Hayes is now in the process of serving on the NMG&F Bear Advisory Team with 6 other NM residents that are made up of a houndsman, outfitter, wildlife biologists and conservationists. There will be approximately 5 meetings to try to come to a consensus for reasonable bear management for the NMG&F Commissioners to consider.

In October 2003, the NMG&F Commission passed the first ever bear management policy that limited 336 bears and/or 171 females to be taken in 6 zones statewide. The hunting times included a 10 day, Aug. 15 to 25 hunt, an Aug. 28 to Sept.19 bow hunt and a Sept. 27 to Nov. 15 hunt in the north and Sept. 27 to Nov. 30 hunt in the south. And an Oct. 15 to Nov. 15 Sandia and Manzano hunt After legislative approval, Governor Richards signs a statewide bear-proofing bill.


SM BearWatch coordinated with Bernalillo County to send out 26,000 NMG&F brochures "Keep Bears Alive and You Safe" to residents living on the eastern and western slopes of the Sandia and Manzano Mountains.

SM BearWatch coordinated with NMG&F, Bernalillo County and Cibola Nat. Forest to have a June 12 ‘Sandia Mountain Bear Fair’ to inform mountain residents and visitors how to co-exist with bears and other wildlife.


2005 SMBW and NMG&F donated time and information with the USFS and Center for Wildlife Information contributing the money and information to produce 20,000 full-color ‘Be Bear Aware’ newsletters. SMBW took over the helm to distribute this outstanding newsletter to businesses, churches, organizations, homeowner associations, etc. to East Mountain businesses, churches, groups and homeowner associations.

NMBW had their first Armadaris Ranch Tour Benefit and raised $6,000 for bear proofing Raton New Mexico