An elk hunter camping on the Valle Vidal Unit of the Carson National Forest was scratched by a black bear in the early morning hours of Nov. 3. The nose of Sean Allyn, 28, required several stitches when he was treated at Holy Cross Hospital in Taos, but the Santa Fe man did return to the Valle Vidal to continue his elk hunt.
Allyn was camping at the Cimarron Campground with several other hunters and family members. He and another hunter, Brian L'Heureux, also of Santa Fe, chose to sleep outside on the ground rather than in the trailers with the rest of their group. Shortly after they went to bed, Allyn and Heureux realized they had left their coolers out and got up to secure them in the horse trailer, but they forgot a plastic garbage bag hanging in a tree about 2 feet off the ground. The garbage bag was approximately 12 feet from where Allyn slept.
Approximately 3 a.m., L'Heureux awoke to a ripping sound and saw an adult cinnamon-colored bear drag the trash bag about 20 feet away and rummage through it. He threw a shoe at Allyn but couldn?t wake him. The bear wandered over and sniffed at Allyn?s sleeping bag and pawed at his shoulder. Allyn woke suddenly, sat upright and the bear?s paw struck him across the face, scratching his left eyebrow and his nose. Allyn and L?Heureux both yelled at the bear and it ran away out of the campground. Allyn?s brother, Greg Allyn, took Sean Allyn to the hospital in Taos for treatment. The two men returned to camp shortly after to continue their hunt.
Game and Fish Officers Steve Anderson and Joe Koch went to the campground and called in a local houndsman to track and kill the bear. The hounds scented a trail and followed it about 1 1/2 miles before losing the scent where the frost had melted away. Anderson set a culvert trap at a vacant campsite near Allyn's camp but had not yet trapped a bear as of Monday morning. Anderson noted that several other parties in the campground also had unsecured trash.
Cimarron Campground is part of a joint agency "Be Bear Aware" program. Bear information and camping precautions are posted at each table, bulletin board, bathroom and trash container. Sean Allyn told Anderson that he believed the incident was entirely his fault for sleeping near unsecured trash. The incident is a reminder to hunters and other backcountry users that the bears are still out looking for food and people need to take suitable precautions when visiting bear country.
Trash, coolers and pet foods should be stored in secured locations. Use vehicles or trailers if car camping. When backcountry camping, cooking areas as well as food and trash storage should be 100 yards from the sleeping area. Suspend food and trash from ropes, at least 10 feet off the ground.
Hunters also should be careful when using cow elk calls. Another Santa Fe man, John Jaramillo, was tossed into a tree by a black bear while bowhunting for elk in September in Unit 53, adjacent to the Valle Vidal. Jaramillo said the bear "lifted me like I weighed fifty pounds." Jaramillo weighs about 240. That bear's attack was arrested by Jaramillo's bow, which became wedged between the bear's chest and the ground. Jaramillo also delivered several punches to the animal's nose and eyes.
Anyone attacked by a black bear should fight back using punches, kicks, sticks or rocks.