CRIME, POLICE + COURTS

Human remains found on the shore at Bear Lake

Jul 27, 2023, 6:52 PM | Updated: Jul 28, 2023, 4:34 pm

BEAR LAKE COUNTY, Idaho -- Authorities in Idaho say human remains were uncovered Thursday morning i...

Bear Lake State Park, June 5, 2023 (Bear Lake State Park)

(Bear Lake State Park)

BEAR LAKE COUNTY, Idaho — Authorities in Idaho said human remains were uncovered Thursday morning in the sand on the shore of Bear Lake. 

Making the discovery

In a news release, the Bear Lake County Sheriff’s Office said they received a call about the discovery of possible human bones. The call came in at 11:42 a.m. from several young men who were digging sandcastles on the shore at Bear Lake. Authorities said the remains were found on a busy section of the beach.

Brian Hirschi, who runs a nearby shop Bear Lake Fun, told KSL NewsRadio that he heard about it when a group of people came into the shop.

“They came over to our employees and said we found some bones that looked like a human jaw bone, had the teeth and everything. Can’t tell if it’s modern era or ancient era, but we did the right thing and called the authorities.”

In a briefing, Sheriff Bart Heslington with the Bear Lake County Sheriff’s Office said this is a first in his career.

He said the bones found on the lake were a human jaw with teeth that appeared to be intact. He noted they are working with the Anthropology Department at Idaho State University to study the site and recover any additional remains. 

How can anthropology help?

Utah State University anthropologist Tim Riley said this type of discovery is something he’s personally responded to many times. 

“There are human remains discovered by accident throughout the state every year. If you think about it, people have been living in this state for at least 13,000 years. For something like Bear Lake to have human remains along its lake shore is not a terribly uncommon thing.”

Riley said it can be a little shocking if you find remains. Even he gets a bit shocked. 

But the important thing is to remember that this is still a person that deserves respect. 

“This is a person. They have descendants and descended communities here today and we want to treat them with the same respect we would treat human remains in a graveyard or anywhere else.”

As for the police investigation underway in Bear Lake, Riley said the jawbone that was found can actually tell them a lot. 

Riley said they can also find out the gender of the person and see if there’s a dental record. 

An ongoing investigation

The Sheriff’s Office doesn’t currently have any cold cases or missing individuals linked to the human remains that were discovered and neither do authorities on the Utah side of the lake. However, Hesligton said they are still researching older records that could give them some answers. 

Authorities also said they don’t believe there’s a threat to the public.

The investigation is not impacting park operations and all state park beach areas remain open to the public.

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Human remains found on the shore at Bear Lake