The New Mexico department of game and fish is seeking “professional bear huggers” to patrol parks and wilderness areas and potentially encounter some of the state’s 6,000 black bears.
In a job advertisement posted to Facebook, the department said applicants would require fitness, trust and “courage”.
The post was accompanied by photos of conservation officers embracing what appeared to be young bears.
“Now hiring professional bear huggers,” the department wrote.
“Must have ability to hike in strenuous conditions, have the courage to crawl into a bear den, and have the trust in your coworkers to keep you safe during the process.”
The ad went on to note that bear hugging will be only a small part of successful candidates’ roles, if the officers get to hug bears at all.
“This was part of a research project in northern New Mexico and all bears were handled safely under supervision,” the game and fish department said under the photos of officers cradling the juvenile ursids.
“Not all law enforcement field work is this glamorous, but we would love for you to join the team where you can have the experience of a lifetime.”
Conservation officers come under the classification of law enforcement. The application page noted that “enforcing the game and fish laws is their primary responsibility”.
Applicants are required to pass a physical test before being considered for an interview. Hopefuls must perform at least 15 push-ups in one minute, at least 27 sit-ups in one minute, and run 300m in less than 71 seconds.
New officers undergo nearly a year of training, including in firearms and boat operation.
Conservation officers also educate the public about wildlife and capture “problem animals”, the application page said. They will assist in wildlife relocations and help develop new regulations.
New Mexico game and fish estimates there are 6,000 black bears in the state. According to the department’s website, the bears have been documented to live for 20 to 25 years.
Bear hunting is legal in New Mexico, however. The game and fish website says: “In most of their range where they are hunted the average life span is about seven to eight years.”
The most common cause of death is being shot by hunters, though bears can also die at the paws of other bears or after “becoming a nuisance by getting used to human food and subsequently having to be killed”.