AZTEC — A hungry prowler in the night nearly got away with a 50-pound bag of dog food -- but just bearly.
Loud noises woke Jon Jones and his wife, Destiny, at 2 a.m. Aug. 10.
When the father of three opened the front door of the family's Aztec home, he spied what appeared to be a giant dog trying to make off with dog food from the porch.
"I told my wife that there was a big ol' dog hauling away our dog food," Jon Jones said. "'That's a bear!' she said, as it tore halfway down the block with the bag in its paw. He was not going to let that bag of food go."
But it was a black bear, probably one or two years old, claiming the dog food as its prize.
"The first reports of a bear in Aztec came in (Aug. 8) to the Aztec police," said Brad Ryan, a conservation officer with the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish.
The night of Aug. 10, Ryan set a 10-by-4-foot trap on a trailer at the Joneses' home. The bear returned that Saturday and was trapped.
"We felt he was a little young to be on his own, so we did not want to re-release him," Ryan said.
This year, Ryan's division caught only two bears, both juveniles. Last year, the division caught six or seven, Ryan said.
Ryan arranged for the bear to be taken to the Wildlife Center in Espanola.
"The Aztec bear -- it's just a guess -- was possibly seperated from its mom at some point, trying to make it on its own and just following its nose," Ryan said. "The largest bear I ever trapped was at the Aztec A&W around 2003, but it's uncommon to get adult bears. Juveniles are typical because if they are alone, they are forced to establish their own food-source area. Adult bears already have one established, so they're rarely an issue."
The Wildlife Center received the bear on Sunday. Alissa Mundt, a rehabilitation staff worker at the center, confirmed the bear is a male yearling, roughly 75 pounds.
"He's definitely on the thin side," Mundt said. "We have two bears right now. Both will stay here through the winter."
Bear care isn't cheap. Mundt said the cost of caring for a bear for seven to eight months averages around $2,100 per bear.
"It's feed, feed, feed, to pack on the weight," she said. "This time of year, these guys should still be with mom, who works to fatten them up to survive the winter."
As for the Jones family, they plan to make sure to get their dog's food inside before nightfall.
"We won't forget that again," Jon Jones said. "Turns out it was less Yogi Bear and more like Boo- Boo, just a young guy. Our kids plan to help out the bear and support it, check on it. Not that we're making it a pet or anything. We've already got a Shar Pei."