Snow cover forces bears into areas they haven't been before
From northern Utah to points down south, people are seeing bears across Utah right now. And in places they've never seen them before.
"I have lived in the canyon for 40 years," says Keith Runcles, who owns the Oaks restaurant in Ogden Canyon, "and this is the first time [I've heard of people seeing bears]."
Kevin Bunnell, mammals program coordinator for the Division of Wildlife Resources, says there are two reasons why:
June is the time of the year when mother bears kick their one-year-old cubs out on their own because the breeding season is starting.
The young bears, out on their own for the first time, tend to wander as they search for an area to call their own.
"The bears would prefer to be in meadows higher in the mountains right now," Bunnell says, "but the snow has closed many of these areas off. That's forcing the bears to look for food at lower elevations."
Most of the bears are eating grass right now. But Bunnell says bears aren't shy at all about eating the same food people eat. And that can lead to a tragic outcome-usually for the bear.
"When a bear begins to lose its fear of people," Bunnell says, "we have a dangerous situation on our hands; a wild animal that's more likely to act aggressively towards people.
"In these situations," he says, "we sometimes have to trap and euthanize the bear to keep people safe."
Fortunately, Bunnell says doing five simple things will lessen the chance that a black bear visits your campsite or cabin area this year:
Store your scented items, such as deodorants and tooth paste, and your food. Don't leave your food and scented items where a bear can get them.
Keep your campsite or cabin area clean. Don't toss food scraps and other trash around.
Don't keep any food in the same area where you're sleeping.
If an item has a strong smell to it, you should probably leave it at home.
Bunnell says bears are usually attracted to people by strong smells and the food that's usually associated with the smells. By doing a few simple things, you can cut those smells down. And that will greatly reduce the chance that a bear visits your camp or cabin:
Don't leave food out. Instead, lock your food and coolers inside your vehicle. You can also suspend them at least 12 feet high between two trees, so bears can't reach them.
You can also store your food in a bear-proof container. But remember that most containers, including plastic food coolers, are NOT bear proof. Various sporting goods stores and outdoors stores sell containers that are bear proof.
Don't scatter garbage, food scraps and fat drippings around your campsite. And don't leave them in your fire pit, either. Instead, place them in an airtight container, lock them securely in the trunk of your car or inside your trailer and take them home with you.
If bear-proof garbage cans are available in your campground, you can also leave them in the cans.
After you're done cooking and eating, immediately clean your cooking grills. And also clean anything used to prepare, eat or clean up food.
Don't keep any food in the area where you're sleeping.
Cook away from your tent or sleeping area. And don't sleep in the clothes you wore while cooking or the clothes you wore while cleaning fish. Leave those clothes at your cooking area, along with utensils, rags and anything else used to prepare, cook, eat or clean up food. Or, better yet, seal the items inside a vehicle or in a bear-proof container.
If you're camping in the backcountry, hang your food and the clothes you used while cooking between two trees and at least 12 feet off the ground.
Don't bring items with you that have a strong odor. Bears have extremely sensitive noses. Anything that has a strong smell, including deodorant, perfume and certain soaps, could draw a bear to your campsite.
Never feed a bear.
Bear safety tips
More tips on how to stay safe in bear country, including what to do if you encounter a bear while hiking, are available at http://go.usa.gov/WDW.
You'll be helping others too
Bunnell says if you follow these rules, you'll not only help yourself, you'll help other people too.
He says a bear may not visit your campsite while you're there. But the food you leave out and the litter you leave behind could bring a bear to that same area after you leave. And that could create a serious problem for people who camp in the area after you.