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Bear Encounters In Utah On the Rise, UDWR Says

COTTONWOOD HEIGHTS, Utah – This may be the summer to pick up bear spray. Bear encounters in Utah are on the rise this summer, and the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources urges all of us to take precautions while camping, on the trail and at home.  Hikers recently spotted a mother bear acting aggressively on a trail at the top of Big Cottonwood Canyon.

“We’re seeing more bear activity this year. We are kind of surprised by it actually,” said Scott Root, Community Outreach Manager for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.

So far this month,  DWR employees have responded to 26 bear encounters this month.. a year ago, only 11.

“By far, most of those encounters have taken place in residential areas, in the foothills,” said Root.

A couple of weeks ago, wildlife officers had to tranquilize a bear in Mapleton that had wandered into a neighborhood.  It was safely relocated.

“We do have a good bear population,” said Root. “They are using the same areas that we’re using when we’re hiking, or sometimes just living.”

In Big Cottonwood Canyon, the DWR set a live trap for a bear that acted aggressively towards hikers last Friday, and again Sunday.

The DWR believes it was a sow looking after one of her cubs.

“She followed the hikers, and she would growl at the hikers. Sometimes they’ll chomp at their jaw a little bit, and even one group reported it bluff charged them a little bit,” said Root.

A wireless, motion- sensor camera will let them know when the bear enters the trap.

“It will send a photograph immediately to us,” said Root. “That way we can respond very quickly if the bear is in the trap, it doesn’t have to be in a bear trap on a hot day.”

Out on the trail, many hikers are considering bear safety for the first time.

“I’ve hiked with my parents, I’ve hiked alone, I’ve hiked with friends, I’ve camped up here many times in my life, and never seen a bear,” said Adam Harmon, a lifelong Utah hiker.  “I think I’m more concerned about a wildcat, or a moose than I am about bear.”

But, he said, it might be time to be more cautious on the trail.

“You don’t want to get between a mother and her cub,” he said. “But, maybe I’ll go to REI and pick up bear spray and start to carry that with me.”

In addition, the number of bears getting into garbage at homes in the foothills this month has doubled from last July. If you are camping or live in any canyons or foothills, the DWR says you must “bear-proof” your food and garbage.

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