An adult black bear, apparently thinking it needed to cool off during the summer of 2005, wandered into the lobby of a Holiday Inn in Raton. It walked past a terrified front desk clerk, then ambled down the hallway to the swimming pool area.
While taking a dip in the pool, the New Mexico Game and Fish Department was summoned to evict the unauthorized guest and remove it from the premises while paying guests scrambled out of the pool area and huddled in the safety of their room. The bear was relocated to the nearby forest where hopefully it could find suitable swimming accommodations in nearby creeks.
Eight years later, another Raton area bear discovered that the dumpster behind the town’s Sonic drive-in was an especially easy place to find tasty snacks. Apparently startled when Game and Fish Department officers showed up, the bear scrambled up a nearby power pole and refused any efforts to come down. Eventually the terrified but no longer hungry critter was shot with a tranquilizer gun, tumbled to the ground and was relocated in an area of the forest that was miles away from the nearest junk food outlet.
Growing up in Ruidoso, I had several encounters with black bears in my youth. Most were at a safe distance. We had a bear that raided the garbage can outside our home regularly early in the morning during one summer. We could hear the clanking when it removed the supposedly “bear proof” lid from our garbage can, so we would rush out on our back porch to spot it with a flashlight. The bear would immediately scamper behind a skinny ponderosa pine, thinking its rather large black body would somehow be obscured by the eight-inch diameter trunk. In the morning, it would be my job to go out and clean up the mess left by the bear — an almost daily ritual that summer.
The scariest incident occurred one summer when I was fishing high up on the north fork of the Ruidoso River. I had come to a crossing on the river, which was obscured by a row of bushes as I approached it. When I turned the corner, there was a black bear on the other side of the river — about 15 feet away. I looked at it and it looked at me with a high degree of fear. Luckily the bear was as scared of me as I was of it. We both beat a hasty retreat in the opposite direction and I never saw it again. I was fortunate it wasn’t a mother bear with a couple of cubs tagging along.