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Front Page » July 17, 2008 » Focus on Recreation » Bear safety in mind when in wild
Published 2,203 days ago

Bear safety in mind when in wild


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By RICHARD SHAW
Sun Advocate publisher

Not all the bears that people encounter in Utah are in the mountains.

Some of them are in the desert valleys too, especially around isolated river areas.

A team of archaeologists, BLM personnel, and reporters found that to be true on a trip up the Green River recently.

"We dubbed the bear near where we were camping Rosie," said Terry Willis, who was working as a boatwoman for the recent trip and is a part time reporter for the Sun Advocate as well. "She kept her distance, and never caused us a problem."

It was believed that the bear may have had a cub or two stashed away somewhere, which can make bears more dangerous, certainly if the mother feels the cubs are threatened in any way.

Willis said that at one point she was watching the bear from near the expeditions campground and some other boaters who had camped farther up the river were hiking down toward the animal. When the bear saw them she hunched down like she might be ready to defend herself. One of the people in the party took his camera and tried to sneak up to get closer and Willis said she warned him to stay back.

"He kind of ignored me and told me that nothing would happen," said Willis.

Later one of the BLM rangers that was with Willis' group went down and talked with the other boaters. Willis said she didn't know what was said but she was pretty sure it was some kind of warning about safety around wild animals.

While it is true that most bears will not come after humans, there are times when they can be very dangerous. Given plenty of warning generally bears will go about their business and most people will never know they were there.

But a bear that feels threatened is often a different story. Here are some bear facts.

•Humans are more likely to run into a bear at dawn or sunset than any other time.

•Of course winter is when some bears hibernate. So the chances of running into them is less during the cold season.

•Bears can weigh up to between five and six hundred pounds.

•Some bears can run as fast as 35 miles per hour.

•Bears that sense people, often with their hearing, will go the other way rather than confront humans.

•Bears are often attracted to camp sites by food that isn't stored properly. It should be in bear safe containers at least one hundred yards from the camp site. Doing this may seem inconvenient, but it is much less a bother than having a bear chase everyone around the camp.

•Bears don't like surprises. Peaceable campers and hikers may find themselves in a cove with a bear if they aren't careful. When hiking or camping make noise all along so bears are aware of the presence of humans as early as possible. Sneaking up on them, even unintentionally can lead to a bear encounter of the painful kind.

•If cubs are detected in the area, it is best to relocate and move on. Mothers get rather upset when people get within close distance of their young.

Of course there is always the chance of accidentally encountering a black bear in the wilds of Utah (black bears are the only naturally occurring bear in the state today). If a bear encounter is unavoidable do the following.

•Stand your ground. Never back up, lie down or play dead. Stay calm and give the bear a chance to leave. Prepare to use 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 out climb 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 bear attacks do the following.

•Use bear spray. Then leave the area. Studies have shown bear spray to be 92 percent successful in deterring bear attacks.

•Shoot to kill. If you use a firearm, never fire a warning shot—aim for the center of the bear and keep firing until it is dead. Notify the Division of Wildlife Resources immediately.

•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.

Bear safety is the individuals responsibility; do the right things and take the right actions. (This article was prepared with information from the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources).

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