Explorer

Conundrum of lack of BF reports in Gila Wilderness

26 posts in this topic

The Gila Wilderness (in southwestern New Mexico) was the first designated Wilderness area in the US (back in 1924) and consists of 872 square miles. 

It is located within the Gila National Forest, which covers 4,235 square miles. 

The area is huge and the USFS has tried to keep it wild (despite continued cattle grazing in some areas).

It contains deer, elk, bear, and plenty of other wildlife (including reintroduced Mexican wolf). 

Attached below is a map of New Mexico showing the location of the Gila Wilderness and the Gila National Forest.

 

The Gila wilderness and the surrounding NF meet certain criteria that I thought were good for BF habitat:

  • It has good bear habitat
  • It has plenty of water year long
  • It has deer and elk populations
  • It has diverse ecosystems with elevation range from 4,200 to 10,900 feet

 

Yet, when we look at the BFRO database, there are no BF reports for the NM counties that cover the National Forest and Wilderness (Catron, Grant, and Sierra counties).

Attached below is the BFRO map for NM for reference. 

 

The question is why are there no BF reports in the Gila? 

I searched for BF reports in google (from non BFRO websites) but all I could find were hoaxes.  I could not find any good solid and seriously investigated report.

 

The area has good bear habitat.  I read the following report “A Study of Black Bear Ecology in New Mexico with Models for Population Dynamics and Habitat Suitability”, published in 2001, that studied the bear population in the Gila NF and it estimated  their population at 1,047 and a density of 9.4/100 km2 (or 3.6 bears/square mile).  The report also concluded that it was good bear habitat (although with lower density that up north in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains). 

The report published a map with the best bear habitats in New Mexico (see map image below) and the Gila Complex was one of the areas with primary suitable habitat.

 

Source: 

http://www.wildlife.state.nm.us/download/hunting/species/bear/publications/New-Mexico-Black-Bear-Study-Costello-et-al-2001 .pdf

 

 

For comparison purposes, the California’s bear population density in the North Coast/Cascade regions (where the Siskiyou Wilderness and other wilderness areas located) was estimated at 1.0 to 2.5 bears per square mile (per previous studies from CA Department of Fish and Game).  This region is well known for its large number of BF reports (Del Norte, Siskiyou, Trinity, and Shasta counties.  Thus, by analogy, if the bear density in Gila Wilderness is larger than that in northern CA, doesn’t that imply that it has better bear habitat (or maybe much less bear hunters)?    If bear habitat in Gila is just as good as or better than Northern CA, then why are there no reports of BF presence? 

 

 

Possible reasons are;

1)      There are BFs in the Gila but very few people live close by or visit, and the few that have sightings don’t know where to report or don’t want to report.

2)      There are BF reports in the Gila; I just have not dug deep enough to find them.

3)      There are no BFs in the Gila because of previous severe droughts pushed them out.

4)      There are no BFs in the Gila because the original population was too small and too far from other BF communities needed to sustain population.  (This is one is hard to believe because the Sacramento Mountains to its east, is another good bear habitat area that has yielded BFRO BF reports in Otero and Lincoln counties).

5)      There are no BFs in the Gila because BF habitat is not the same as bear habitat. BFs need something else that we don’t know about yet.

 

Anybody has any ideas that could shine some light on this conundrum?

 

NM Wilderness Map.PNG

BFRO NM Map.PNG

Black Bear Habitat in NM.PNG

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Hi Explorer, not a whole lot I can do to help you. Even John Green's database is pretty spotty with out much detail in either Creature descriptions or physical evidence:

 

John Green Database New Mexico.ods

 

 

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BTW, I am curious about the Gila Wilderness because I lived in the region for about 5 years and backpacked it several times. 

It is a beautiful area that is seldom visited (although not as spectacular as the Sangre de Cristos). 

During my visits there, I saw bear twice and plenty of deer but no BF (it was not even a possibility in my mind back then).

 

Recently, I read the excellent book titled Fire Season by Philip Connors, who spent 8 years as a fire lookout on Hillsboro Peak (part of the Gila / Aldo Leopold Wilderness Complex). 

Besides describing his experiences there, he also gives an excellent history of the Gila NF and Wilderness from a fire management point of view and from a wilderness management POV. 

He wrote about plenty of wildlife he saw while he spent 8 summers there, but never mentioned of hearing/seeing any anomalous signs of BF presence. 

Maybe he dismissed the idea/possibility or maybe BF is not there.

43 minutes ago, hiflier said:

Hi Explorer, not a whole lot I can do to help you. Even John Green's database is pretty spotty with out much detail in either Creature descriptions or physical evidence:

 

John Green Database New Mexico.ods

 

 

 

Hiflier,  

 

Thanks for checking and sending the NM extract of JGD.

Looks like the  majority of those counties are consistent with BFRO (San Juan and Taos in the northwest of the state) and with a few (Eddy and Dona Ana) adjacent or on the Sacramento Mountains.

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Just curious, is that area known as an illegal smuggling (drugs, people, etc.) route? Thinking that if there is a fair amount of under the radar activities going on there, it might scare BF off. Especially if gunfire is involved.

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It could follow to that Sasquatch IS sighted but not reported because of the witness's own illegal activities. In general, if someone has a crop going deep in a remote location somewhere I really doubt they are going to say anything or file any kind of report.

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17 hours ago, norseman said:

Here is one from south central NM.

 

http://www.bfro.net/GDB/show_report.asp?id=9992

 

My oldest daughter lives in Alamogordo.

 

Norseman, thanks for checking and posting.

Unfortunately, that case is near Ruidoso in Lincoln County, which is not the correct location for Gila Wilderness.

That location is within the Sacramento range, that includes both good bear habitat and multiple BFRO reports.

 

The NM counties of interest that cover the Gila NF are Grant, Catron and Sierra.

 

 

4 hours ago, Cryptic Megafauna said:

Here are a couple

 

 

Cryptic Megafauna, thanks for looking for cases and posting the 2 Youtube Videos.

Unfortunately, neither of those cases took place in the Gila Wilderness.

The first video took place near Cuba, NM in Sandoval County (a county that BFRO does show BF reports) but it in Northwestern NM.

The 2nd video did not disclose location, but the eyewitness is Navajo and the terrain appears to indicate that it took place in the tribal lands of Northwestern NM.

This makes sense since the area in NM that the Crypto Four Corners group tends to focus on covers the San Juan and Rio Arriba counties.

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42 minutes ago, VAfooter said:

Just curious, is that area known as an illegal smuggling (drugs, people, etc.) route? Thinking that if there is a fair amount of under the radar activities going on there, it might scare BF off. Especially if gunfire is involved.

 

My recollection when I lived in that area, is that the Gila Wilderness and NF did not have an illegal problem.

Most of the illegal crossings took place further south closer to Columbus, NM, Las Cruces, NM and El Paso,TX.

Once they get to Interstate Highway 10, it was over.

 

The US Border Patrol used to have a tethered aerostat around Deming, NM.

I checked the Border Patrol website (see link below) and the map indicates that they still have it in Deming.

Deming is directly south of the Gila NF (guessing 20 to 30 miles south).

https://www.cbp.gov/frontline/frontline-november-aerostats

 

Another possibility for that area not being attractive to BF is that, after Florida, New Mexico is the state with the 2nd highest number of lightning strikes per square mile in the US.

The book I referred above, about fires in the Gila, mentioned that lightning strikes are the main cause of fires there and before NF used to fight them, they were big.

The problem with that idea, is that the Sacramento range to its east and the Sangre de Cristos also get lots of lightning yet they both have BFRO reports.

Granted, I have not researched the areas in NM with most lighting strikes (I am sure there is a map out there for that).

In fact, I once visited the Langmuir Lightning Research Lab on top of the Magdalena Mountains in NM and it was a crazy drive up there and not a place to hang around when lightnings are striking (see link below).

These mountains, however, are further north and east to the Gila NF and are part of the Cibola NF.

http://langmuir.nmt.edu/

 

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Agree on lightning and New Mexico, in the Sangre de Cristo of Philmont Scout Ranch (northeast/northcentral NM) one summer I was there it was scary, with multiple hits resulting in at least one death and some serious injury. 

 

I happened to be in that very storm directing scouts to what little cover we could gain while people at Cimaroncito above us were bombed.  We were the lucky ones that day. 

Edited by bipedalist
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Attached is a lightning strike density map put together by Vaisala.

 

I was wrong in my statement above that NM is the 2nd state with most lightning strikes per square mile after Florida.  It appears that Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, South Carolina and others have higher rates.

I personally don’t think the high lightning rate in the Gila is the driver for lack of BF presence. 

The map indicates that both the Sacramento range and the Sangre de Cristo range have equal lightning density as the Gila, yet these other ranges have reports of BF presence.

 

 

Below is an extract from some interesting information on lighting strikes in the US.

 

Here are the states where that lightning hits the ground most often:

5 - South Carolina/Oklahoma: Each state has a yearly average of 14.6 strikes per square mile (one square mile is about 2.5 square kilometers.).South Carolina had an average of 451,841 strikes per year (1996 to 2008), and Oklahoma is hit by 1,017,989 strikes per year, according to data from Vaisala. Despite these states ranking in the top 5 for lightning strikes, they have not had any lightning-related deaths over the past two years. Over the past decade, South Carolina has been the deadlier state of the two, ranking 9th in the number of lightning deaths (12). In Oklahoma, lighting killed four people over the last decade.

4 - Alabama: As a yearly average, Alabama has 15.9 strikes per square mile and 824,171 strikes per year on average. Alabama is the sixth deadliest state for lighting, with 17 deaths in the past 10 years. In the past two years, lighting killed four people in the state, including three in 2010.

3- Mississippi: It sees an average of 18.0 strikes per square mile and 856,384 strikes per year on average.That state had one death in the past two years and is the 14th deadliest for lighting strikes, with 10 deaths in the past 10 years.

2 - Louisiana: 20.3 strikes per square mile and 942,128 strikes per year.Lightning in the state killed two people in the last two years. Louisiana is the 16th deadliest state for lighting, with nine deaths over the past 10 years.

1 - Florida: A whopping 25.3 strikes per square mile and 1.45 million lightning strikes each year, on average. The state is also the deadliest for lightning, with 62 deaths over the past 10 years. Florida's lightning shows are due to its location between the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. These bodies of water provide the moisture needed for the state's notorious thunderstorms.

 

Sources:

http://www.livescience.com/14714-lightning-prone-states-110620.html

 

http://lightningsafety.com/nlsi_info/lightningmaps/US_FD_Lightning.pdf

 

Lightning Strike Density Map.PNG

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You could contact Brenda Harris. She might know if anything is going on down there. Could be local populations don't talk about sightings. Brenda is most active around Farmington. Could be the area is an island...not good tactically? Not enough area for retreat? Too rocky? But if it has bear and elk, that's a good indicator for them.

Well looking at the Arizona map there should be plenty of overlap. Not sure why it would cut out along the border like that. Most likely non-reporting by locals due to cultural norms.

Edited by Waggles
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On 1/31/2017 at 11:24 PM, norseman said:

Here is one from south central NM.

 

http://www.bfro.net/GDB/show_report.asp?id=9992

 

My oldest daughter lives in Alamogordo.

I think I had an encounter in that area about 1970.     It was in the Sacramento bear habitat that straddles Lincoln and Otero counties.       At the time I knew nothing about BF and thought it was a bear.      Something came around my tent in the middle of the night.   I heard it brush past my tent, felt the tent fabric move,  and I heard heavy thuds of footfalls.     Figuring it was a bear I lighted my backpacking gas stove and started beating aluminum pots to make noise.     Got a growl at that and the thing retreated on the other side of the creek I was encamped on.    I was alone and unarmed.      It seemed to keep its distance on the far side of the creek.   The standoff lasted for about 2 hours I guess.   At some point I started to hear big rocks splashing in the creek.    In the dark.     I thought,   well the thing is pacing up and down the bank and must be dislodging rocks that are rolling into the creek.    I can recall hearing several rocks hitting in the water with big splashes.         Now and then a growl.   Then after what seemed like a very long time,   no more noise.     I slept little after that.    I got up the next morning expecting to see a high bank on the other side of the creek.     It was as flat as can be, sandy, and no rocks could have rolled anywhere.      It was only when I got into BF research, learned BF behavior, and realized that bears do not throw rocks, and likely do not roll them like bowling balls.    that I realized that what I encountered all those years ago was not likely a bear.     I  cannot for sure say what it was, but bears do not throw large rocks.    I never saw a human all the time I was out there so think it unlikely it was a human messing with me.     I beat feet back to my vehicle and blew off my second night of camping.    When I got there,  my car was the only one at the trail head.    I discovered I had locked my keys in the car so I got to break out a back side window to get into the car.      I did not back pack solo ever again.            

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Another potential hypothesis to explain the lack of BF reports in the Gila NF could be the presence of wolves.

 

The Mexican wolf was reintroduced into the Gila NF back in 1998 by the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

 

Keith Foster (a highly respected BF researcher from Colorado) posted these comments on the Joshua Stevens BF map website back in 2013.

 

“One interesting thing found in my data was that there were no sightings from Rocky Mountain National Park by anyone, despite super habitat and lots of neophyte campers to misidentify a bear or make up a tall tale. Yet just to the south of that park in the Lost Creek Wilderness I have three sightings from professional bowhunting guides who should know what they are looking at in the forest. All were elk hunting at the time of their personal sightings, fully camouflaged and sitting hidden and quiet. Why no sightings from inexperienced campers in RMNP forests, yet sightings from experienced professional outdoorsmen in remote wilderness less than 100 miles away?

 

If you want to see a sasquatch, find the biggest patch of unbroken forest you can in a western US wilderness area, avoiding human trails. Get at least a mile from any human trail or road on a topo map, sit down and hide yourself there and be very quiet for weeks on end. To increase odds, make sure there are elk at the fringes of your deep forest stake out spot. Also avoid any area inhabited by wolves, as a North American data plot of wolf population seems to correlate with a relative rarity of sasquatch sightings in spite of prime sasquatch habitat.

 

Source:

http://www.joshuastevens.net/visualization/squatch-watch-92-years-of-bigfoot-sightings-in-us-and-canada/

 

Per the Mexican wolf tracking website, in 2015 there were about 97 wolves in the “Mexican Wolf Experimental Population Area”.  This experimental area includes both eastern Arizona and western NM (see attached map). But if you look at the map of radio collared tracking locations (updated in their website), most of them are in Gila NF (New Mexico) and Apache NF (Arizona).

 

Source:

https://www.fws.gov/southwest/es/mexicanwolf/BRWRP_home.cfm

 

I don’t think wolf presence explains the lack of BF reports in the Gila because:

1)      Wolf reintroduction was recent (1998).  It is believed that wolves in New Mexico went extinct by 1927.  Thus, there is plenty of time when the Gila NF went without wolf presence.

2)      Wolves were also reintroduced in the Apache NF in eastern Arizona (which is adjacent to the Gila NF), and yet this area continues to yield BF reports.

 

 

Mexican Wolf Experimental Population Area 2015.PNG

Edited by Explorer
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Would the wolf areas overlap into Arzona counties with sightings?

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