• A female bear watches wildlife officials from a tree on Fort Huachuca June 6. A Civilian worker sighted it and two cubs on Christy Avenue while on his way to work that morning.

    A female bear watches wildlife officials from a...

    A female bear watches wildlife officials from a tree on Fort Huachuca June 6. A Civilian worker sighted it and two cubs on Christy Avenue while on his way to work that morning.

  • Brad Fulk, Arizona Game and Fish Department, fires a tranquilizer at the bear after it would not come down from a neighboring tree near the Bonnie Blink housing area, June 6. The female bear was caught in a tarp after it fell.

    Brad Fulk, Arizona Game and Fish Department...

    Brad Fulk, Arizona Game and Fish Department, fires a tranquilizer at the bear after it would not come down from a neighboring tree near the Bonnie Blink housing area, June 6. The female bear was caught in a tarp after it fell.

  • Brad Fulk, Arizona Game and Fish Department, and a member of the Fort Huachuca Fire Department, check the female bear's health before relocating it and its cubs to a new home in the Galiuro Mountains. The bears were rescued from trees near the Bonnie Blink housing area on post June 6.

    Brad Fulk, Arizona Game and Fish Department...

    Brad Fulk, Arizona Game and Fish Department, and a member of the Fort Huachuca Fire Department, check the female bear's health before relocating it and its cubs to a new home in the Galiuro Mountains. The bears were rescued from trees near the Bonnie...

  • Capt. Michael Gamble (right), Fort Huachuca Veterinary Clinic, Matt Braun, Arizona Game and Fish Department and Adam Ogle, United States Department of Agriculture strategize about how to remove the three animals.

    Capt. Michael Gamble (right), Fort Huachuca...

    Capt. Michael Gamble (right), Fort Huachuca Veterinary Clinic, Matt Braun, Arizona Game and Fish Department and Adam Ogle, United States Department of Agriculture strategize about how to remove the three animals.

  • Wildlife professionals from various agencies and Fort Huachuca Fire Department personnel prepare to catch a female bear in a tarp as it falls from a tree after being tranquilized June 6. The three bears were relocated in the Galiuro Mountains, about three hours from Fort Huachuca.

    Wildlife professionals from various agencies...

    Wildlife professionals from various agencies and Fort Huachuca Fire Department personnel prepare to catch a female bear in a tarp as it falls from a tree after being tranquilized June 6. The three bears were relocated in the Galiuro Mountains, about...

  • Following a successful bear rescue on Fort Huachuca June 6, Brad Fulk, (left) and Matt Braun, both from the Arizona Game and Fish Department, carry the 175-pound female bear to the transport vehicle in preparation for relocation.

    Following a successful bear rescue on Fort...

    Following a successful bear rescue on Fort Huachuca June 6, Brad Fulk, (left) and Matt Braun, both from the Arizona Game and Fish Department, carry the 175-pound female bear to the transport vehicle in preparation for relocation.

  • Wildlife officials and Fort Huachuca Fire Department personnel ensure the tranquilized mother is secure in its carrier before relocating the bear and its cubs to a new home in the Galiuro Mountains near Safford, June 6.

    Wildlife officials and Fort Huachuca Fire...

    Wildlife officials and Fort Huachuca Fire Department personnel ensure the tranquilized mother is secure in its carrier before relocating the bear and its cubs to a new home in the Galiuro Mountains near Safford, June 6.

What started off as a typical morning for Fort Huachuca personnel quickly changed when a Civilian employee on his way to work June 6 spotted a mother bear and its two cubs on Old Post just below the Bonnie Blink housing area.

As bystanders called for assistance, the cubs ran up a tree just off Christy Avenue and the mother bear ran up another tree about 100 feet away. When emergency responders and wildlife officials arrived, they blocked off the area and devised a plan to capture the bears.

"We were talking about whether we should go ahead and remove the cubs while [the mother bear] was up in the tree, or give her the chance to come down and go for her cubs," explained Brad Fulk, a field supervisor with the Arizona Game and Fish Department. "We decided to wait and see what would happen with the way it was and she came down and started to go up the canyon [without her cubs]. At that point I said 'go ahead and get her back up a tree.' So that's when we went to Plan B."
Nine emergency and wildlife officials used a large tarp to catch the 175-pound mother bear as it fell from the tree after being tranquilized with a dart.

Matt Braun, Arizona Game and Fish Department, removed the cubs from the neighboring tree by hand, using a ladder truck provided by the Fort Huachuca Fire Department.

"Given the circumstances of the cubs in a separate tree, we were hoping they would come down and mosey off on their own but that didn't happen," Fulk said. "If it had been just the sow, we would have just set up a perimeter and let her come down on her own, remove all the threats and let her drift back up the canyon."

According to Fulk, the seven-hour rescue event was textbook perfect. After the three bears were removed from the trees, they were taken to the edge of the Galiuro Mountains near Safford, about three hours away, and released.

"It was a cohesive release which means that we didn't separate them," Fulk explained. "We let the sow out and put her up a tree. Then we took the cubs out, and placed them up in the tree with her."
Bear activity has increased on the fort in recent years, with June and July being the months when most bear sightings take place. Since the 2011 Monument Fire in the Huachuca Mountains, bears have been forced to find natural food sources closer to human habitats. But usually, officials can quickly resolve any situation by running them back into the mountains.

Members of the Fort Huachuca community need to understand that this area is considered "bear country," according to wildlife officials, and should follow certain rules to discourage human and bear encounters.

• Secure all trashcans and do not leave food, including pet food, outside.
• Put trash out the morning of pick-up, not the night before.
• Keep barbecue grills clean.
• Pick vegetation immediately.
• Do not feed wildlife.

"A fed bear is a dead bear," Fulk said. "When people feed bears intentionally, that bear is now a very, very big threat to anybody else that comes in contact with it because it's going to be expecting food and that's what we don't want."

If a person comes in close proximity to a bear, they should not approach the animal. Bears may appear to be big and slow but don't be fooled, officials caution. They are powerful, fast animals with lethal claws. If approached, people should make themselves look as large and imposing as possible by spreading their jacket, if wearing one, and raising it over their heads or using anything being carried. Place personal belongings in front of you and back away slowly. Do not run or make sudden movements.

Those who see bears or potentially dangerous wildlife in the cantonment area should report the sighting to the Military Police Desk at 520.533.3000. Don't attempt to deal with the situation yourself; let the professionals handle it.

Page last updated Fri June 13th, 2014 at 00:00