Bear bites teenager on face at Moab campground

(Photo courtesy of the state Division of Wildlife Resources) A photo of bear tracks found near a campground where a bear attacked a teenager on Aug. 9, 2019.

A Colorado teenager is recovering after he was bitten by a black bear while camping near Moab on Friday morning.

The 13-year-old was asleep in a sleeping bag about 5:45 a.m. when the bear bit his right cheek and ear, said Darren DeBloois, of the Division of Wildlife Resources.

The teenager first went to an emergency room in Moab for treatment and was later taken by ambulance to a hospital in Grand Junction, Colo., for cosmetic surgery. He’s been treated and released.

After the attack near the Dewey Bridge campground, the bear — which was described as a “smaller bear” with black fur — fled toward the Colorado River, according to a news release from the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. The bear was probably about 2 years old, DeBloois said.

DeBloois said black bears come in a variety of colors and live throughout most of Utah, but generally aren’t found in that area near the Colorado River. He theorized the bear might have wandered there in search of a drink and food and stuck around eating the plentiful, in-season berries.

Division and USDA Wildlife Services staff are following tracks near the campground and using dogs and traps to find the bear. Since it attacked a human, it will be killed if found, the release states.The staff will work to find the bear “until they’ve exhausted all their options," according to the release.

“We don’t want him to hurt anyone else,” DeBloois said about the bear.

DeBloois said officials will use video of the bear, as well as a description of it from the teenager, to identify it. He said they’d collect DNA from the victim and compare it with DNA taken from the bear after it is killed for confirmation.

Officials have closed the Dewey Bridge campground and posted warning signs in the area. It is closed at least through the weekend, DeBloois said, or until the bear is found.

This is the second bear attack this summer in Utah, DeBloois said. A bear injured a Boy Scout camping with a group near Hobble Creek, east of Springville, on June 18. Dogs found that bear and officials killed it.

To protect against bears, the DWR urges campers to store food, drinks and other scented items in a vehicle or a bear-safe container — not in a tent. The division also asks people to throw away trash in bear-proof dumpsters and keep their campsite clean.

DeBloois said officials don’t believe the 13-year-old and his group did anything that would have attracted the bear. He added bears are out in greater numbers right now searching for food as they prepare for winter hibernation.

If you do encounter a bear, give it a chance to leave, make yourself look large and don’t run away or try to climb a tree, because bears can outrun and outclimb humans. Make noises and fight back if you’re attacked — which is exactly what the teenager did, DeBloois said.

For more information on camping or hiking safely in bear country, visit wildlife.utah.gov/living-with-bears.