Two weeks, three encounters with black bears

People encouraged to keep their campsites and cabin areas clean

SPRINGVILLE - People have encountered black bears in north-central Utah three times in just the last two weeks.

With Memorial Day weekend approaching, Division of Wildlife Resources biologists are reminding people to keep their campsites and cabin sites clean.

The encounters happened in Provo Canyon, Park City and near Strawberry Reservoir, but encounters like this could happen almost anywhere in the state.

"Food is the number one reason bears and people come into conflict," says Steve Gray, a wildlife specialist with the DWR. "We always say that a fed bear is a dead bear and for good reason."

Gray says bears have an extremely keen sense of smell. That sense of smell helps them survive by helping them find food. When the food they find is leftover food scraps or trash, however, the outcome usually isn't good.

"We simply must keep our campsites and cabin sites clean," Gray says. "The DWR has a strict bear policy that we've put into place to protect the public. Unfortunately, in accordance with that policy, we had to euthanize one of the bears from last week's incidents."

Gray is referring to an incident in Bryant's Fork, near Strawberry Reservoir.

DWR conservation officers say people living in a cabin in the area accidentally burned a meal they were cooking. They opened the windows and doors of the cabin to let the smoke out and then took a short hike to allow the cabin to ventilate.

Bear eating a pastry left for it near a trap in Provo Canyon
A 16-month-old blonde-colored black bear munches on a pastry left for it near a black bear trap in the Vivian Park Community in Provo Canyon last week.
Photo courtesy of Scott Root

When they returned to the cabin, they saw that the screen on the front door was destroyed. They peeked inside the cabin and saw a black bear in the kitchen. The bear also saw them and darted through a window screen and into the woods.

When conservation officers arrived, they found that the bear was still near the cabin. They tried to scare the bear away by firing cracker (noise-making) shells at it from a shotgun. The bear wouldn't leave the area and showed no fear of people.

After several attempts to scare it away, and because several people, including young children, live in the cabin community, the officers decided to euthanize the bear.

In another incident, DWR biologists received a report that a black bear was visiting a dumpster in the Vivian Park community in Provo Canyon.

The biologists arrived and set up a bear trap near the dumpster. (The trap is made of culvert pipe with a door that closes behind a bear as it enters the trap.)

As biologists finished setting up the trap, and placing bait in and around it, they spotted the bear only 20 yards away. Gray says the beautiful, blonde-colored black bear was simply a young, 16-month-old bear that had been driven off by its mother so she could breed again and have other cubs.

The bear looks into the trap
After taking a bite out of the pastry, the bear looks into the trap, where DWR biologists have placed more bait.
Photo courtesy of Scott Root

The bear was a first-time visitor to the area and didn't exhibit any threatening behavior. It eventually walked into the trap, and the biologists trapped it and quickly relocated it.

Biologists also chased another bear away in Park City last week. The bear was spotted near Kimball Junction and close to several Park City shopping areas. The bear ran into the mountains and hasn't been seen since.

"These three incidents are examples of the different results that can occur when bears encounter people," Gray says. "Unfortunately, we had to destroy the bear that was attracted to human food, showed no fear of people and wouldn't leave the area."

Safety Tips

Safety tips and a brochure titled "Living in Black Bear Country" are available for free at www.wildlife.utah.gov/bear. You can also obtain this information by calling the nearest Division of Wildlife Resources office.