Bear Encounters On The Rise

This undated photograph provided by the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources in July 2019 shows a bear.

While the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources has reported an increase bear-related incidents in the state, Northern Utah is having a fairly quiet year so far.

Earlier this month, DWR reported more than 25 nuisance bear calls in the state, but Northern Region spokesman Mark Hadley said as of last week, his region had been alerted to and was trying to capture only three bears that had been getting into people’s food and trash, and all those were in Summit County.

There are black bears in Cache County, Hadley said, but in much fewer numbers than areas around the Uinta Mountains or even in Ogden and Morgan counties. There haven’t been any bear reports in Cache County so far this year, but that’s normal.

“Bears really like oak brush,” Hadley said “That’s a habitat they especially like, and we don’t have a lot of that in Northern Utah.”

So while they haven’t had any nuisance bear reports in Cache County, DWR would like people to keep a couple of things in mind to help make sure that number stays at zero.

One, Hadley said, is that bears like the same sort of food that people do. “Nuisance” bears are drawn to areas where people are because they’re foraging. When their forays into human-inhabited places are rewarded with food, that compounds the problem.

The second thing is to remember that bears’ sense of smell is much, much stronger than humans’.

“A cabin owner, he and his wife, they had made some banana bread and had just taken it out of the oven and thought, ‘Well, let’s just put it in this open windowsill and let it just kind of cool off and stuff,’” Hadley said. “A bear smelled that food and came up to that cabin area intent on getting that food.”

The cabin owner spotted the bear and was able to scare it away, Hadley said, but it’s a good illustration that bears will “come right for something, food that we would also enjoy eating.”

It’s also good for Cache Valley residents to brush up on bear safety as they travel and camp elsewhere around the state and region.

The DWR recommends following these camping tips, especially in areas with higher bear populations:

• Bear-proof your food. Lock food and other scented items like deodorant and toothpaste in your trunk, in a trailer or in a “bear box.”

• Keep your campsite clean. Be carefull not to leave food scraps or trash around. Put it in trash bags and in bear-proof dumpsters, if provided at the campsite. Wipe down picnic tables and don’t leave grease on grills or stoves.

If you encounter a black bear, the DWR recommends staying calm, standing your ground and preparing to use bear spray or another deterrent if you have them. Don’t run or climb a tree — “Black bears are excellent climbers and can run up to 35 mph,” the DWR’s post states. “You cannot outclimb or outrun them.”

If a black bear attacks, fight back and don’t give up, the DWR states.

“People have successfully defended themselves with almost anything: rocks, sticks, backpacks, water bottles and even their hands and feet,” the post states.

For more information, Hadley recommends reading up on bears at wildawareutah.org.

staff writer