Utah black bears struggling with drought and hunger may exhibit erratic behavior

The bear was first reported around 7 a.m. on the grounds of Morgan Middle School. Officers from the Division of Wildlife Resources arrived with a dog that stopped the bear. The animal was tranquilized and moved to a remote area.

Even with the drought, Darren DeBloois, games coordinator for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, said it’s rare to see bears in the spring because they usually find enough food.

DeBloois noted Monday’s incident was unusual.

“The impact [from drought] is in the fall, and so if it really dries up and they don’t get things like berries and acorns and pine nuts depending on where you are in the state, that kind of stuff. If this is affected by drought and not available in the fall, you may start to see problems where bears travel farther in search of food sources. If they enter areas occupied by people, they may get into trouble and end up in the trash.

Drought conditions affect the amount of root-like vegetation bears can eat. These plants represent 90% of the diet of bears.

DeBloois said it’s rare, but sometimes bears can behave like predators. He said they are incredibly strong and fast, but generally avoid humans unless they feel threatened or are in desperate need of food.

In 1992, a 9-year-old girl sleeping in a trailer near Strawberry Reservoir was dragged through a window by a black bear. His grandfather chased the bear as he climbed a hill dragging the child in his sleeping bag. The grandfather caught up, pulled the girl out of the sleeping bag and fought off the bear with his flashlight. The child survived but was seriously injured.

DeBloois said another incident about a decade ago reminded him that black bears can be inexplicably predatory.

“Obviously the bear was motivated. It’s unusual for bears to break into tents and especially campers. But the young man who was killed about a decade ago in Utah , he entered the tent and got it too.

When camping in bear country like Utah, there are ways to avoid attracting them.

A black bear with his nose buried in a food container eats garbage from a residential trash bag in the summer

Bears have a keen sense of smell and are often attracted to garbage, food, and supplies, including deodorant and toothpaste. Do not leave food outside. Store scented things in a car trunk if possible. Keep cooking areas clean and never spill food or grease on the floor. Wash dishes immediately after eating.

The DWR lists fruit trees, bird feeders, compost piles, beehives, barbecue grills and pet food as bear attractors.

DeBloois said when a bear stands up and grunts or whines, it’s not aggression. If you encounter a bear, do not run away, back up or climb a tree, as they are excellent climbers. He said it was better to lie down and play dead, which might make the bear move forward.

If attacked, DeBloois said to fight back; people successfully fought back with rocks, sticks, backpacks, water bottles, and their own hands and feet.

DWR-Pooh standing.PNG

Bear sightings in populated areas should be reported to DWR if bears are acting aggressively, eating fruit trees, or digging through trash. Report a bear if it roams in low-lying areas or is within the city limits. The DWR has a policy of moving bears and will do everything possible to avoid euthanizing a wild animal.

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