Sandoval Signpost


An independent monthly newspaper serving the community since 1988

Dave Harper

If you lose or find an animal in Placitas area, call the Animal Hotline at 867-6135. The Hotline is a nonprofit service run by Dave and January Harper to help reunite lost and found pets. Placing a Lost or Found in the Animal Hotline is a free service courtesy of the Signpost—we can sometimes even include a photo. Call Dave and January at 867-6135 or 263-2266 and leave a detailed message, or email the Animal Hotline at: (but call, too).


Lost Dog

If you see me, call the Animal Hotline.

Dog: Very friendly male dog, lost from Camino de San Francisco (near San Francisco Hills) in northeastern Placitas on December 22. "Bosley" has the body of a hound, coloring of a heeler, one floppy ear and one ear that stands straight up. He plays very vocally. Unfortunately, his microchip is out dated. #3950. (See photo, left.)


Cat: Calico cat (probably female) about two-months old, found east of the    Village of Placitas on December 4. Very friendly # 3948.


Animal News



Lalo’s pet prints:




Lalo loves to receive your pet and animal photos to print in the Signpost.
Email them to “Lalo” at:
Or mail prints to: Signpost, P. O. Box 889 Placitas, NM 87043

Love and light to you, dear Hannah. You were a good pig.

“Ghost bird,” —©Gary Priester

(l. to r.) Lacey (16) and Charley sleeping. —Ed and Marjorie Majka

Dear Lalo, 12 Dec 2013: These bushtits love our D.I.Y. hanging bird feeder made from a coat hanger and a toilet paper roll coated with chunky peanut butter and rolled in sunflower chips. D.I.Y., works, cheap, and "green!"—Michael and Jeremie Sare, La Mesa, Placitas

c. Rudi Klimpert

Bears on the brink

—Paul J. Polechla

Although this summer’s monsoon gave central New Mexico some temporary relief from the record drought, indications are that the black bear population did not fare very well. High mortality, poor cub health, and removal of “problem” bears are the reasons given by some observers. Yet, the reader may wonder: what are some of the deeper causes of these phenomena?

Area amateur naturalists cite the late frost and early summer drought conditions as reason for a poor bear food crop. Scientific bear studies in other areas of the Southwest, and a pilot study done in the Sandia Mountains, found that bears feed on soft and hard “mast.” Hard mast eaten by bears consists of oak (mainly Gambel’s, gray, and shrub live oaks), acorns, piñon nuts, and juniper berries (one-seeded, Rocky Mountain, Alligator and common). Soft mast consists of fruits of choke cherry, New Mexico elderberry, prickly pear, wild plum, and “bear corn.” All of the soft mast fruits have a mushy outer flesh with seeds inside.

The last plant is interesting and can be important to bears. Bear corn is also known as broomrape, cancer root, squawroot, and ground cone. It is a herbaceous plant that is a parasitic cousin to the snapdragon, but the plant lacks green chlorophyll and showy flowers. Its fruit is yellow-brown with small tiny dark seeds inside. Though this plant sucks its nutrients from the roots of oak shrubs, it is a late-season bear food staple under usual conditions. Bears are known to eat foods high in lipids that per weight are highest in energy content. Bears need that energy stored as fat to survive their hibernation through winter.

When bears feed on these natural foods, all is hunky-dory. But when we are in a drought, like that of 2011 to 2013, there is high reason for concern for the bear population. It is then that bears revert to dumpster diving and other human-oriented behavior as they shift to feeding on garbage, summer bird-seed, and non-native fruit tree drops (peaches, apples, pears, and others) left by people, often carelessly.

Although New Mexico Game and Fish (NMGF), Sandia Mountain Bear Watch, Wildlife West, Animal Protection of New Mexico, Cibola National Forest, and others conduct extensive public education campaigns, bears still have become habituated to this human-caused or anthropogenic food.

Eating this food comes with a cost to both bears and humans. Since there is human scent on the food or in the area, the bears become habituated to people, lose their fear of humans and resort to breaking into dwellings and garbage cans to get to that food. This is true especially during a drought year, and the result can be frightening for people but absolutely deadly to bears. NMGF winds up being politically forced to kill these “offending bears.”

Through October 1, the fate of the Sandia bears this year has been 71 removed or killed through live-capture and euthanasia/relocation by NMGF or vehicle/bear collisions. (Bears generally get a “three-strike” opportunity before they are euthanized).

The problem is that the total removed this year nearly exceeds the “estimated” number of 72 bears in the Sandia Mountains. Game and Fish merely extrapolates density data (from an old study done 150 miles distant) in wet northeastern or dry southwestern New Mexico. There is no reliable estimate for the number of bears in the Sandias.

The Sandia Mountains are becoming an older even-aged stand of conifer forest with little coverage and production of bear mast fruit species. The point is the current management approach is threatening this closed population of black bears, and we risk losing this population.

It is critical we act now since the Sandia Mountain bear population is surrounded to the west by Albuquerque, to the north by Placitas, to the east by the East Mountain communities (Cedar Crest, San Antonito, Sandia Park, Edgewood, etc.), and to the south by Tijeras and the I-40 wildlife fence. It is a closed population that has been drastically reduced. The question becomes: what should be done to more wisely conserve this valuable bear population, our state mammal, and a dramatic example of wilderness in our midst?

Sandia Mountain Bear Watch, which is dedicated to helping maintain a stable bear population in New Mexico, has advocated for supplemental feeding of the Sandia bears with dog food. The problem with this strategy is that it would only make matters worse, creating a bear population even more reliant on and habituated to human food.

What needs to be done, in my opinion, is to establish a moratorium on bear hunting in the Sandia Mountains, with no supplementary bear feeding. In addition, a thorough study of the annual diet/mast survey and population density (individuals/land area) of bears in the Sandias is desperately needed. Legislation is also needed to encourage people who live in bear country to be responsible with human food and garbage. They should be fined if they don’t comply.

Only when this is done will we understand bear ecology in the Sandia Mountains and know how best to manage the survival of the Sandia bears.

Paul J. Polechla, Ph.D., is a wildlife ecologist who lives in Albuquerque. He has written about the mammals of the Sandias in the book Field Guide to the Sandia Mountains. Reprinted from the  November 2013 issue of Local iQ.

Couple shares experience of dog rescue

On January 18, 2014, at 2:00 p.m., Kate and Wally Kuligowski will be at the Placitas Community Library to discuss their book, Our Most Treasured Tails. This book is a trove of information about their experiences in dog rescue and cites current local and federal laws affecting animals. The authors have abundant information about all aspects of pet ownership, adoption, and rescue. They are also very knowledgeable about how legislative issues affect the well being of pets and how to pursue stronger animal humane legislation.

Homeless dogs from Placitas Animal Rescue will be on site and available for adoption.

Proceeds from the book sales will be donated to four New Mexican animal humane charities.

AG King files lawsuit to stop horse slaughter in NM

—Phil Sisneros

Attorney General Gary King is suing the Valley Meat horse slaughter plant in Roswell to prevent the company from killing and butchering horses for food.

At a news conference on December 19, 2013, AG King announced that he has filed a lawsuit that asks for a temporary restraining order to stop the plant from opening. Valley Meat is reportedly planning to begin slaughtering horses for human food by the beginning of January, 2014.

“I took this action because horse slaughter presents a genuine risk to New Mexicans’ health and to our natural resources,” says Attorney General King. “Valley Meat Company’s record of violating the state’s laws regarding food, water quality, and unfair business practices poses serious dangers to public health and safety, to the natural environment, and to the public’s use and enjoyment of public resources, namely groundwater and land.”

AG King reiterated that horses are administered scores of drugs that are banned for use with food animals and that are not approved for human use either. Many of these drugs have demonstrated harmful effects on humans, and others carry unknown risks. Because horses in America are not raised to be eaten, they are given these drugs without regard to whether their meat might be consumed later. In addition, horses lack medical records that would help regulators and consumers decide if their meat was safe.

The Attorney General says, “For these reasons, I concluded earlier this year that horse meat would likely constitute an ‘adulterated’ product under the New Mexico Food Act and, therefore, would be prohibited.

AG King said he also initiated this lawsuit because Valley Meat, the plant that is on the verge of beginning commercial horse slaughter, has a poor track record of compliance with environmental and safety laws, racking up literally thousands of violations over the years. The company has requested a state permit that is required before it can discharge wastewater, but has now stated publicly that it will begin operating on January 1, 2014, whether or not it receives the permit.

“Our environmental laws are on the books to protect precious natural resources, especially groundwater. Companies that willfully ignore those laws need to be held to account before they cause serious damage to public health or our environment,” adds AG King. “Commercial horse slaughter is completely at odds with our traditions and our values as New Mexicans. It also poses a tangible risk to consumers and to our environment. I will continue to fight on behalf of the health and well-being of New Mexicans and the protection of our groundwater and other natural resources.”

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