How to stay safe in Utah’s bear country

Local News

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 News) – Black bears live in much of Utah and are amazing animals but, you probably don’t want to come face to face with one while spending time in the great outdoors. Black bears have an amazing sense of smell and have no problem eating the same type of food that humans eat which is where they usually run into humans…while scavenging for people’s food in the bear’s natural habitat.

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Darren DeBloois, Game Mammals Coordinator for Utah Division of Wildlife Resources joined us Friday morning with some tips on how to stay safe.

“Even though they’re incredibly strong and surprisingly fast, black bears will typically do everything they can to avoid people,” DeBloois aid. “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. We are anticipating another summer with a lot of bear activity, so please take the necessary steps to protect yourself from a bear encounter.”

So, here are a few simple steps from Utah’s Division of Wildlife Resources that you can take to stay safe while out and about in Utah this summer.

Bear-proof your food and supplies

Store your food, snacks and scented items in an area where bears can’t reach them. Do not leave them out on tables or keep them in your tent. Storing your items in a car or in an enclosed trailer are good options.

Keep your cooking area clean

After you have finished eating, clean everything you used during meal prep or while eating the food. Do not dump oil or grease from pots or pans onto the ground. Put the grease in a container and take it home with you.

Keep your campsite clean

Don’t leave food scraps and other trash scattered around your campsite, put it in trash bags and take it home with you.

Never feed a bear

Although bears may seem cute…never feed one! Once a bear loses its fear of people, wildlife biologists and conservation officers are left with something they dread: having to euthanize an animal to keep people safe.

Bear-proof your outdoor garbage cans

The DWR says that most reports of bears that they receive are bears getting into trash cans or dumpsters in neighborhoods and at cabins. Make sure to store your trash in a secure location or bear-proof container. If you don’t have a bear-proof container, store the trash in your garage and put it out for pick-up in the morning. Also, make sure to clean your trash container regularly to eliminate some of the odors that attract bears.

Remove items that will attract a bear to your house

Some items that attract bears include birdfeeders, fruit trees, compost piles, beehives, pet food and water bowls, unsupervised outdoor pets (especially at night) and barbecue grills.

What do I do if I encounter a black bear?

Stand your ground. When it comes to black bears, never back up, never lie down or play dead. Stay calm and give the bear a chance to leave. Prepare to use your bear spray.

Don’t run away or climb a tree. Black bears are excellent climbers and can run up to 35 mph.

Know bear behavior. If a bear stands up, grunts, moans or makes other noises, it is not being aggressive, it is the bear getting a better look or smell at its interests.

If a black bear attacks, always fight back and never give up! People have successfully defended themselves with rocks, sticks, backpacks, water bottles and just themselves.

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