The number of reported human run-ins with black bears in Utah has nearly doubled since 2018, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources reported on Monday.
As of Nov. 7, the DWR has received 53 reports statewide of incidents involving black bears, such as bears rumbling through garbage at campsites or in neighborhoods. In 2018, there were 27 black bear incidents reported.
Two incidents this year involved a bear making physical contact with a person, according to a DWR press release.
The area between Salt Lake City and Santaquin had some of the most reported bear incidents, along with Grand County and northern Zion National Park.
In June, a black bear wandered into a campsite in Hobble Creek Canyon and mildly injured a Boy Scout who was sleeping inside a tent. DWR officials later tracked down and euthanized the 2-year-old, 150-pound bear.
Days later, on June 20, the Utah Department of Natural Resources tranquilized and relocated a black bear that was seen wandering through residential areas on the edge of the Springville and Mapleton city borders.
“The most likely reason (for increased sightings) is that we have increased the number of black bears in the state over the last decade or so,” said Darren DeBloois, a game mammals coordinator with DWR.
DeBloois added that increased sightings this year does not necessarily indicate an upward trend, noting that there were even more black bear incidents in 2017.
“You must allow for some randomness,” Debloois said. “Some of this is due to local conditions each year like drought, the length of winter hibernations .... or a lack of natural foods, which can push bears into conflict situations in search of food.”
Most black bears in Utah begin hibernating in mid-November and re-emerge around March and April, the DWR press release states.
DeBloois said campers and canyon residents can prevent run-ins with black bears by denying them a food source.
“This can include a wide range of things like bird feeders (especially hummingbird feeders), pet food, unsecured garbage and coolers,” said DeBloois, as well as toiletries like toothpaste and deodorant.
Additional information about staying safe in bear country can be found at http://wildawareutah.org/utah-wildlife-information/bears.