A campaign has been launched in the northern Mexican state of Nuevo Leon to educate people on how to respond if they spot a bear outside its normal habitat and warn of severe consequences for those who abuse these animals, officials said.

The campaign, which kicked off on Wednesday, features ads informing people how to react if they come across a bear, the Environment and Natural Resources Secretariat's Jorge Rodriguez Peña said.

According to that agency's figures, 20 bears were spotted in 2008 and another 20 in 2009 in Greater Monterrey, capital of Nuevo Leon state, while 17 animals appeared per year in 2010 and 2011.

In 2012, the number of bears spotted outside their normal mountain habitat has jumped to 42.

"This species is protected by regulation 059 and, in case of any harm coming to (a bear), the person responsible will be punished with a prison term of between one and nine years and a fine of 300 to 3,000 times the current minimum salary" (between $1,380 and $13,800), Rodriguez said. EFE