Increased number of bear incidents prompt bear safety alert

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SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 News) – There has been an increased number of bears getting into garbage and rummaging in campsites this year.

In fact, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources said the number of bears reported getting into garbage and food in July has doubled statewide from this time last year.

DWR says this is happening because the public is not properly securing food and garbage in their backyards and while camping.

Signs are being placed to remind Utahns to store their food and keep their campsites clean.

DWR is advising those who go out camping and those who live in any canyons or foothills to “bear-proof” their food and garbage.

Black bears, according to DWR, are the only native bear species currently in Utah and they have an amazing sense of smell. The bears also have no problem eating the same food humans eat.

In the past month, DWR employees say they have responded to more than 25 reports of bears getting into coolers, garbage or rummaging in campsites and residential trash cans throughout Utah.

A black bear with its nose buried in a food container eats trash out of a residential garbage bag in summertime

They say 20 of those reports have occurred in Central Utah and along the Wasatch Front.

There were 11 reports statewide of bears in neighborhoods or campsites around this time last year statewide, according to DWR. They say most of those incidents happened in the southern part of Utah.

DWR wildlife biologist Riley Peck said, “We deal with nuisance bear calls every year, but this year, we have received a much higher amount, especially in communities near or around the mountains and campsites along the Wasatch Front.”

There are several reasons for the increase in human and bear conflict this year, according to DWR.

  • A higher bear population compared to the past year.
  • The bear population along the Wasatch Front has also continued to grow and expand into wildlife habitat areas.

DWR shared a few examples of things to be mindful of to not attract bears:

  • Bear-proof your home outdoor garbage cans
  • Remove items that will attract a bear to your house like
    • birdfeeders
    • fruit trees
    • compost piles
    • beehives
    • pet food and water bowls
    • Unsupervised outdoor pets
    • barbecue grills
  • Keep your campsite clean

“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,” DWR mammals coordinator Darren DeBloois said.

What to do if you encounter a bear according to DWR:

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 outclimb 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.

If you see a bear getting into things at your house or campsite, contact the DWR office nearest to you.

For more information about how to stay safe or avoid a bear encounter visit here.

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