Hey, Utahns, stop feeding the bears. Or leaving food where bears can get it, at least.
That's the word from the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, which reports that the number of bear incidents has more than doubled this year.
In June, a black bear — the only species found in Utah — was captured and killed after it got into a tent and scratched a boy in Hobble Creek Canyon east of Springville. (The boy was not seriously injured.) Within days, a second bear was seen in Springville, and a third was captured and relocated after it was seen eating out of garbage cans in Mapleton.
“We deal with nuisance bear calls every year,” said DWR wildlife biologist Riley Peck. "But this year, we have received a much higher amount, especially in communities near or around the mountains and campsites along the Wasatch Front.”
Last year at this time, the DWR had received 11 reports of bear encounters, and most of those were in southern Utah. So far in 2019, the DWR has gotten more than 25 reports of bears getting into coolers, trash cans or dumpsters or rummaging through campsites — and 20 of those happened in either central Utah or along the Wasatch Front.
Not only has the bear population increased, according to DWR, but the human population continues to encroach on bear territory. And the bears are hungrier than usual because last year was “extremely dry,” Peck said, so the bears “could have gone into hibernation a little leaner than normal.”
That was followed by a wet, cool spring that may have “kept bears hibernating in their dens a little longer than usual.” And the combination of the two “could be making the bears a little bolder.”
All of that means Utahns have got to bear-proof their food and garbage.
The DWR is urging residents of the foothills and mountains to “eliminate, properly secure or clean yard items” that may attract a bear, including bird feeders (both seed and hummingbird), fruit trees, compost piles, beehives, pet food and water bowls, unsupervised outdoor pets (especially at night) and barbecue grills.
Garbage should be stored in bear-proof containers or inside homes/garages; nonsecure trash cans should be taken out to the curb in the morning for pickup, not left out overnight.
Campers should store food and scented items like deodorant and toothpaste where a bear can’t get them, not on tables or in tents. Locked trailers or car trunks are “both good options.”
Garbage should be stored securely, and taken home when you’re done camping. It’s important to clean campsites before you leave not just for your safety, but for the safety of those who come after you.
“If a bear visits the area after you leave and then someone comes into that area to camp, you’ve created a potentially dangerous situation,” said DWR mammals coordinator Darren DeBloois.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU ENCOUNTER A BEAR
• Stand your ground: Never back up, lie down or play dead. Stay calm and give the bear a chance to leave. Prepare to use your bear spray or another deterrent.
• Don’t run away or climb a tree: Black bears are excellent climbers and can run up to 35 mph — you cannot out-climb or outrun them.
• Know bear behavior: If a bear stands up, grunts, moans or makes other sounds, it’s not being aggressive. These are the ways a bear gets a better look or smell and expresses its interest.
• If a black bear attacks, always fight back: And never give up. People have successfully defended themselves with almost anything — rocks, sticks, backpacks, water bottles and even their hands and feet.
— Utah Division of Wildlife Resources