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Drought could bring bears closer to people

Black bear in a Provo neighhborhood (Photo: Provo PD)

Provo police said a bear was spotted wandering through the neighborhood near 900 East and Center Street early Friday morning. The bear didn’t hurt anyone, but its appearance is raising concern that this year’s drought could bring predators into urban areas this summer.

Bears depend on many of the same food and water sources as other animals, such as deer and moose.

Bears and drought

Darren DeBloois, game animal coordinator with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, said animals will seek out areas where they can find water.

“They’ll congregate around those water sources instead of being more widely spread out,” DeBloois told KSL NewsRadio. “And that would go for urban settings where there’s vegetation that’s being irrigated.”

DeBloois said deer and other animals are also attracted to agricultural operations such as alfalfa fields, fed by irrigation water.

Bears looking for food and water might also come into urban areas. DeBloois said DWR is prepared to respond to reports of bears and other predators where they don’t belong.

“[They] could be showing up where we wouldn’t expect them to be — all the way to eating garbage or killing livestock or pets,” he said. 

Bears that lose their fear of people or act aggressively pose the greatest danger.

“Obviously, we’d like to catch and translocate those animals if we can, but if they’ve shown any kinds of aggressive tendencies toward people, they’ll have to be euthanized,” DeBloois said.

Black bear attacks on humans are rare, but experts advise standing your ground if a bear gets too close and making yourself appear as large as possible. Don’t run away — bears can run faster than people — and understand that a bear standing up might just be investigating its environment. But in the unlikely event that a bear does attack, be prepared to fight. People have stopped bear attacks with rocks, sticks or backpacks and even their hands and feet.