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Human run-ins with black bears nearly doubled in 2019 in Utah

This undated photograph provided by the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources shows a black bear. Wildlife officials say reports of bears coming down from the mountains and rummaging through backyard and campgrounds throughout Utah have nearly doubled in 2019. (Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, via AP)

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources says 53 people reported encountering black bears this year, compared with 27 in 2018.

These encounters included bears rummaging through garbage and coming onto campgrounds, with one bear biting a teenage boy’s face as he camped in Moab this summer.

Game Mammals Coordinator Darren DeBloois is not surprised by the increase because many bears were hibernating during a longer than normal snow season.

“When they did come out, they were really hungry and were looking for any kind of sources of food they could find. So, we had a lot of early encounters in campgrounds and had to move a lot of bears that were places they shouldn’t have been,” DeBloois said.

And many of the black bears that were moved around the state were young males who were out on their own for the first time.

“They’re looking for new places to eat, especially young males…We saw a lot of young bears trying to find a new home,” DeBloois said.

The three most common areas for reports of bear encounters in 2019 were between Salt Lake City and Santaquin, in Grand County, and at the north end of Zion National Park.
But there are things people can do to prevent bear encounters, DeBloois says, including making sure trash is picked up at your campsite and food is not left outside your home.
“The big thing we’ve noticed is bird feeders, especially hummingbird feeders. Those are just basically sugar water, and bears love those. They’ll climb up on your deck and break into those,” DeBloois said.