Utah’s bears are out in force this year, DWR warns

Bear sightings in the canyons and foothills in Utah this month have more than doubled from last July, according to the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.

The DWR is asking campers and those living in any canyons or foothills to “bear-proof” your food and garbage.

DWR employees responded to more than 25 reports of bears getting into garbage and food this month, compared to 11 reports this time last year. Most of those sightings occurred in central Utah and along the Wasatch Front.

“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,” DWR wildlife biologist Riley Peck said.

DWR Conservation Outreach Manager, Mark Hadley said he has not received any reports of bears in Cache, Rich or Bear Lake Counties. “So far this summer it’s been very quiet,” he said.

“The area where we have the greatest number of bears is Summit County, down around Coalville and Kamas” said Hadley. “As you work your way northwest from that area and move up to the Idaho border, the number of bear sightings actually decrease.”

Utah’s bear population has grown since last year, the DWR explained. This year’s wet spring may also have been a factor.

The DWR offered the following safety tips to bear-proof your home or campsite:

Bear-proof your home outdoor garbage cans

Several of the recent bear reports have involved 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 access to a bear-safe garbage can or dumpster, make sure to store your garbage can in your garage and put it out for pick up in the morning, rather than the night before. Also, make sure to clean your trash container regularly to eliminate some of the odors, which attract bears.

Remove items that will attract a bear to your house

Some of these include:

  • Birdfeeders (both seed and hummingbird)
  • Fruit trees
  • Compost piles
  • Beehives
  • Pet food and water bowls
  • Unsupervised outdoor pets (especially at night)
  • Barbecue grills

Bear-proof your food while camping

Store your food, snacks and scented items (such as deodorant and toothpaste) in an area where a bear can’t get to them. Do not leave them out on tables or keep them in your tent. Storing them in a locked trailer or locking them in the trunk of your car are both good options. Storing food and scented items in these areas will reduce the chance that a bear smells them. And, if a bear does make its way to the area where you’re staying, if it isn’t rewarded with food, it will likely move on.

Keep your campsite clean

Don’t toss food scraps and other trash around your campsite or cabin area. Instead, put it in trash bags, and take it home with you. Several of this year’s bear incidents have occurred because trash was left in a non-bear-proof dumpster at the campsite. Make sure to wipe down picnic tables and keep the area free of food and other debris. Always keep your campsite or cabin area clean because a dirty campsite can attract bears long after you’ve left.

What to do if you encounter a bear

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.

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