SAFETY

Utah drought making encounters with black bears more likely

May 27, 2022, 3:15 PM
A black bear...
Black bears primarily eat plants and roots. Photo credit: Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources advised that encounters with black bears might be more likely this year because of the drought.

Why Utah black bears might be easier to run into

The Utah Department of Natural Resources mentioned the increased risk of black bear encounters in its weekly drought update, “Black bears are the only species of bear in Utah, and they live and roam across much of the state. The likelihood of conflicts with bears often increases during drought years when a bear’s normal food supply is decreased, leading them to seek alternate food sources.”

DWR Public Information Officer Faith Heaton-Jolley said black bears mostly eat plants, which are dying off earlier than normal.

“Obviously drought conditions impact plants, and other vegetation, which makes up 90% of a black bear’s diet. So anytime that kind of food supply decreases, bears will often look more broadly for other food sources. Which could potentially lead to conflicts with people if they’re out camping and the bears are getting into garbage cans, things like that, scavenging for food,” said Heaton-Jolley.

Avoiding encounters

Heaton-Jolley said you’re more likely to encounter a bear if you’re near canyons or foothills.

For homeowners in bear county, there are things you can do to avoid potential run-ins with the animals.

“We are recommending –especially this year with the drought– to remove any of those potential food sources that could draw a bear to the area. Things like pet food that are for outside pets, or birds feeders. Securing your trash cans at night, things like that, are recommended,” said Heaton-Jolley.

What to do if you run into a black bear

And if you’re concerned about running into a bear in the backcountry, Heaton-Jolley said there isn’t really much to worry about.

“If you’re just kind of standing there, and you’re calm, the bear is just going to run away. Their primary food source is plants and roots, so typically they’re not going to attack a person. But in the event that maybe they do become aggressive and they attack, we just recommend always fighting back. Using anything you can grab to fight it off –sticks, rocks, anything– and just keep fighting until it leaves.”

For more information on black bears, visit the DWR’s website.

Related: Black bear captured in Morgan County

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Utah drought making encounters with black bears more likely