The number of bears getting into people’s garbage and food this month has doubled since last July, according to Utah’s Division of Wildlife Resources.
The DWR wants more people to “bear proof” their food and garbage, especially if they’re camping or live in any of Utah’s canyons or foothills.
The DWR has responded to more than 25 reports of bears getting into food at people’s campsites or rummaging through trash in the past month. Twenty of those were in central Utah and along the Wasatch Front, according to a press release. Last year at the same time, there were only 11 reports statewide, most of which occurred in southern Utah.
Many of these incidents have included bears getting into trash at homes or cabins, or because food was left in a non-bear-proof dumpster at a campsite.
Utah County has had its fair share of black bear encounters already this summer. A black bear was euthanized by officials in June after mildly injuring a scout at a Boy Scout camp in Hobble Creek Canyon. Another bear was relocated by officials after being sighted near Mapleton multiple times within a few days — including eating from a garbage can. Multiple bear sightings have occurred in the foothills community of Woodland Hills in June and July.
The reasons for the increase, according to the press release, include a higher bear population compared to past years and a human population expanding further into bear territory along the Wasatch Front.
“Another reason for the increase in bear incidents is that the summer of 2018 was extremely dry,” said DWR biologist Riley Peck in the press release. “As a results, some bears could have gone into hibernation a little leaner than normal. This was then followed by a very wet, cool spring that kept bears hibernating in their dens a little longer than usual. The combination of those two things could be making the bears a little bolder in trying to acquire their needed calories.”
A few tips from the DWR to take extra care with bears include:
- Bear proof your outdoor garbage cans.
- Remove items that will attract a bear to your house, including birdfeeders, fruit trees, compost piles, beehives, pet food and water bowls, unsupervised outdoor pets (especially at night) and barbecue grills.
- Bear proof your food while camping by storing food and scented items like deodorant and toothpaste in an area where a bear can’t get to them. Never leave these items in your tent.
- Keep your campsite clean
If you encounter a bear, the DWR advises that you stand your ground, stay calm and give the bear a chance to leave. Be prepared to use bear spray or another deterrent. Backing up, playing dead, running away or climbing a tree are all discouraged. In the case a bear does attack, always fight back, the press release said.
More information can be found at www.wildawareutah.org.