SANTA FE, N.M. — It’s springtime and that means New Mexico’s black bears are coming out of hibernation. It also means the problems associated with improper handling of household trash, bird feeders and barbecue grills are just beginning. So far this year the Department has received several calls as bears, fresh out of their dens, begin their search for food. Normally in spring bears feed on newly greening grasses, insects that are just appearing and occasionally carrion that they may find. But too often what they find is garbage. Officials are once again reiterating that many times people cause the problem. Rick Winslow, bear biologist for the Department, expressed concern that early habituation of bears to people and their garbage many times has dire consequences for the bear. “ According to Department policy, if a bear is trapped three times by the Department, that third time the bear is killed,” said Winslow. Household trash with melon rinds and other fragrant offerings represent easy meals to bears. Winslow said people really need to keep their trash cans in the garage or inside a closed metal shed. Other steps to follow: · Feed your pets indoors or bring any leftover food indoors. · Bring in birdseed and hummingbird feeders each night. · Keep barbecue grills inside. A law that Department officers expect to enforce this year makes it illegal for anyone, intentionally or through negligence, to cause a nuisance animal problem by baiting, feeding or enticing animals into an area. That would include garbage that attracts a bear into an area where is causes a nuisance or safety problem. Give the bears a break, handle your trash responsibly.