MEXICO CITY (AP) — A black bear pictured putting its paws on hikers and inspecting them in northern Mexico is drawing support from an online campaign opposing plans by authorities to use non-lethal traps for the animal so it can be relocated.
The bear became famous this week after a woman posted a photo of the animal appearing to rest its chin on her shoulder and look into the camera, as if it were posing for a selfie. The bear was a bit taller than the woman, who was with other women on a hike. Video of the group’s encounter was also posted.
Animal activists seized on the fact that none of the hikers seen in the “bear selfies” were wearing masks, which are required in many public places for the coronavirus pandemic. Some suggested the hikers, not the bear, were the problem, with one Internet meme showing a photo of a bear and the phrase, “Stay at home so I don’t have to be relocated.”
Mexico’s office for environmental protection said Friday that it had set several traps for the bear, and added that the animal had been relocated before and was apparently looking for food. The bear has appeared along hiking trails in the Chipinque park on the outskirts of the northern city of Monterrey.
A similar-sized bear, possibly the same one, was seen later gently sniffing and pawing at the legs of a woman walking in a street in a nearby suburb. Both incidents ended without violence after the two women remained still and quietly walked away.
An online petition at Change.org has gotten over 135,000 signatures against relocating the bear outside the park or to a zoo.
“The bear is in its habitat, we are asking it be located in the same area, and not spend its life in a zoo,” the petition says.
The environmental protection office said it had no plans to take the bear to a zoo, but did say the bear was a repeat offender and would be moved to another area, though it was unclear if that meant the same township or elsewhere.