Drought can make bears bolder; here’s how to avoid an encounter

Local News

A female Baribal American black bear lays on May 3, 2019 at the Planete Sauvage zoological park in Port-Saint-Pere, near Nantes, western France. (Photo by LOIC VENANCE / AFP) (Photo credit should read LOIC VENANCE/AFP via Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – Did you know that conflicts with bears increase during a drought?

That’s because plants and other vegetation that make up the bulk of a black bear’s diet may not be in abundance this year, forcing bears to look for food elsewhere, the Utah Department of Wildlife Resources says.

The department is reminding Utahns to avoid bear encounters by taking the following precautions:

Bear-proof your food

Though black bears usually avoid people, conflicts can occur when they scavenge for food that people may be cooking nearby.

“Even though they’re incredibly strong and surprisingly fast, black bears will typically do everything they can to avoid people,” Darren DeBloois, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources game mammals coordinator, says. “When a bear finds food, though, that all changes. Once it finds food, a bear will often become aggressive toward anything it perceives as threatening the area where it found the food — that includes people.”

Therefore, it’s important to store you food, along with scented toiletries such as deodorant and toothpaste, in an area the bear can’t reach. Store them in a locked trailer or car where a bear is less likely to smell them in the first place.

Clean cooking area

Thoroughly clean any utensils used to eat or cook. Avoid dumping cooking grease on the ground. Instead, put it in a container and take it home with you.

Keep a clean campsite

Dirty campsites can attract bears, placing you, or the next person to use the campsite, in danger. Be sure to wipe down tables and dispose of all food scraps and trash in a trash bag to take home with you.

Don’t feed bears

That even includes cute-looking cubs that may seem harmless. If bears lose the fear of people, this could create the need to euthanize them to keep people safe.

Bear-proof your garbage cans

Make sure your yard is clean and properly secured. Things like birdfeeders, fruit trees, compost piles, beehives, pet food, unsupervised pets, and barbecue grills can all attract bears.

If you do encounter a black bear, experts say stand your ground, don’t run away, and always fight back. Familiarize yourself with bear behavior. If a bear stands up, grunts, or moans, it’s not being aggressive but is acting curious.

Visit wildlife.utah.gov for more information.

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