Watch: Newly released video at center of push to tighten Utah bear chasing rules

Nov 30, 2022, 10:04 PM | Updated: 10:32 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — Chased deep into the backcountry and surrounded by too many hounds to count, a black bear collapses trying to fend off the howling and nipping dogs.

The chaotic scene played out in the La Sal mountains outside Moab in 2018, recorded in shaky cellphone videos later used to build criminal cases against two houndsmen. The men caged the bear for two days, authorities said, before it was released and chased by the dogs once again.

Troubled by the video, state wildlife managers tightened Utah hunting rules to prohibit chasing a bear repeatedly to the point it can’t escape. But critics say the changes don’t go far enough. They’re worried about the potential for other Utah bears to be abused in the woods by those chasing the animals for sport.

“They ran this bear to total exhaustion,” Grand County Attorney Christina Sloan said. “There’s not a lot of training going on. It’s total chaos.”

With the right permit, using hounds to track down black bears – whether to kill them or simply scare them up a tree – is lawful in Utah. State wildlife managers say the 2018 ordeal is not the norm and most trainers leave bears alone after they scurry overhead.

Neighboring Idaho, Nevada and Arizona allow it, too, according to the Humane Society, which opposes the sport.

There’s no doubt the behavior depicted in the video is disturbing, Sloan said. What’s less clear is whether it’s criminal.

Her office filed charges against a Utah houndsman, Clifford Stubbs, and Florida dog trainer, William Tyler “Bo” Wood, after investigators discovered videos of the hunt.

A jury found Wood guilty of misdemeanor charges for putting the bear in a metal box to transport and revive it. He’s since appealed those convictions, and Stubbs pleaded guilty to similar counts in 2020.

But Wood, accused of releasing the bear from the crate to be chased again, was acquitted of the most serious charge he faced, wanton destruction of wildlife, a felony.

Sloan contends that’s largely because Utah’s restrictions are too vague. She is now publicly releasing the video – previously reviewed by jurors and the state board overseeing hunting permits – for the first time in hopes of raising awareness that will spark change.

She’s urged the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources to clarify that pursuing a bear to exhaustion is prohibited, she said, but the agency hasn’t done so yet.

“To me, that means our bears are being terrorized in our mountains,” Sloan said.

In the wake of the 2018 case, the state set a limit on the number of hounds: 16 for most of the year; eight in the summer. It also prohibited repeated chases rendering the bear unable to escape, and it reduced the number of permits available to out-of-state residents who tend to come from places where the practice isn’t allowed, like Colorado, Wyoming and Florida.

Sloan says more than eight dogs is too many. Moab resident Gerrish Willis, who previously served on a local DWR advisory board, agreed.

“I think anybody who looks at these videos and is aware that this guy got off is going to be really upset, and they’re going to demand changes,” he said. “That’s my hope, anyway.”

Cory Huntsman, president of the Utah Houndsmen Association, believes more changes aren’t needed. Many dogs can be a good thing, he said, making a bear more likely to rush up a tree instead of running for longer and tiring out.

He acknowledges some “bad apples” give houndsmen a bad name, but “it really is a humane sport and it’s ethical,” he said. In 20 years of running hounds, he’s never had a dog or bear injured, he added, and trainers have stepped up to better police each other.

DWR is listening to the calls for more action, said Darren DeBloois, the agency’s game mammals program coordinator.

When it comes to accountability for abuse of wildlife, he said, “we do want people that do this to be prosecuted and face consequences. It’s not acceptable.”

The agency is already proposing some further changes to make the pursuits more humane, he noted, including ending the season in August before the temperature dips and the animals fatten up for winter. DWR is taking public comment online and at meetings around the state this week and next.

Most chases are ethical, DeBloois added, and some even help wildlife managers study bear and cougar populations. The hounds track down the animals so DWR can place tracking collars on them.

Biologists have estimated Utah’s black bear population at more than 3,000; The state’s last known grizzly was killed 100 years ago.

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

Local News

Handcuffs in a jail cell FILE PHOTO (Ravell Call/Deseret News)...
Pat Reavy

Sandy man threatened to kill parents after shooting TVs, police say

A Sandy man was charged Friday with shooting two televisions and threatening to kill his parents and go on a killing spree.
14 hours ago

West Jordan man arrested in child porn, voyeurism investigation

A man who described himself to police as being highly skilled with computers has been arrested for allegedly possessing child porn and placing hidden cameras in his home.
14 hours ago
A former administrator of a popular Facebook group used for inviting singles to parties was ordered...

West Jordan man ordered to stand trial in sexual assaults at party for singles

A former administrator of a popular Facebook group used for inviting singles to parties and other events was ordered Friday to stand trial on multiple charges of rape and sexual abuse.
14 hours ago
Salt Lake County Jail (Spenser Heaps, Deseret News)...
Pat Reavy

Agents report finding child porn, bag of children’s underwear in Utah man’s home

A man was arrested Thursday after agents reported finding hundreds of videos of child pornography in his home and a bag of children's underwear.
14 hours ago
A mentor at a youth residential treatment center in Millcreek was charged Thursday with sexually ab...
Pat Reavy

Mentor at Millcreek youth treatment facility charged with sexual abuse

A mentor at a youth residential treatment center in Millcreek was charged Thursday with sexually abusing a resident.
14 hours ago
$400 million set aside for tax cut...
Brooke Williams and Larry D. Curtis, KSL TV

Gov. Cox signs student voucher bill, trans medical bill

Gov. Cox signed two bills Saturday morning and released statements regarding each.
14 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Fiber Optical cables connected to an optic ports and Network cables connected to ethernet ports...
Brian Huston, CE and Anthony Perkins, BICSI

Why Every Business Needs a Structured Cabling System

A structured cabling system benefits businesses by giving you faster processing speeds and making your network more efficient and reliable.
notebook with password notes highlighted...
PC Laptops

How to Create Strong Passwords You Can Actually Remember

Learn how you can create strong passwords that are actually easy to remember! In a short time you can create new ones in seconds.
house with for rent sign posted...
Chase Harrington, president and COO of Entrata

Top 5 Reasons You May Want to Consider Apartment Life Over Owning a Home

There are many benefits of renting that can be overshadowed by the allure of buying a home. Here are five reasons why renting might be right for you.
Festive kitchen in Christmas decorations. Christmas dining room....
Lighting Design

6 Holiday Decor Trends to Try in 2022

We've rounded out the top 6 holiday decor trends for 2022 so you can be ahead of the game before you start shopping. 
Happy diverse college or university students are having fun on their graduation day...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

How to Choose What MBA Program is Right for You: Take this Quiz Before You Apply!

Wondering what MBA program is right for you? Take this quiz before you apply to see if it will help you meet your goals.
Diverse Group of Energetic Professionals Team Meeting in Modern Office: Brainstorming IT Programmer...
Les Olson

Don’t Let a Ransomware Attack Get You Down | Protect Your Workplace Today with Cyber Insurance

Business owners and operators should be on guard to protect their workplace. Cyber insurance can protect you from online attacks.
Watch: Newly released video at center of push to tighten Utah bear chasing rules