Thursday, August 6, 2009

Utah is going Bear Crazy!

Another bear was killed in Utah on Wednesday when a Garfield County resident perceived the animal as a threat. That's the sixth bear that's been illegally killed without a permit in Utah this year. Here's the complete story in the Salt Lake Tribune. Its understandable that people are nervous around bears after the incident two summers ago in American Fork Canyon. On June 18th, 2007 a boy who was camping with his family was dragged from his tent and then mauled to death by a black bear. It was the first fatal bear attack in Utah's history. While the incident has everyone on edge, people need to understand that it's not okay to kill bears when they encounter them in the wild. Biologists are not certain what Utah's bear population is, but they estimate it's between 3,000 and 4,000 animals. That's a small bear population, especially for a state with so much wild land.

What should be done then if you encounter a bear? First off, consider yourself lucky! It's rare to see a bear in Utah, and you should be excited to see one in it's natural environment. Second, give the bear plenty of room. Bears are wild animals and their actions are difficult to predict. Black bears are not typically aggressive, so your first reaction shouldn't necessarily be fear. If the bear feels threatened, or feels it needs to protect its cubs, it may react aggressively, but usually black bears are very mellow, calm animals. Bears should be naturally afraid of humans. When they lose this natural fear is when problems occur. Finally report the bear to the local authority, especially if its hanging around an area close to humans. Leave it to the experts. It's not your place to take care of the problem.

If you're camping, be aware that your actions as a camper can have both a positive or negative effect on bears. Camping in bear country carries with it a responsibility. Leaving food and garbage out in camp can attract bears. Bears have a keen sense of smell and can smell food from miles away. Use bear boxes if they're provided and don't leave any food out around camp. Never eat or store food in your tent. Absolutely never feed bears. When bears gain access to human food, it hurts the bears and creates a potentially dangerous situation. Human food is far more nutritious than bear's natural diet. Once bears start eating human food, they'll go to great lengths to continue. Because relocation efforts are largely unsuccessful, bears that start eating human food usually end up being killed. As the old adage goes, "A fed bear is a dead bear." In developed campgrounds use provided bearproof lockers and in the backcountry carry bear canisters or effectively hang your food.

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