Bear still on the lam
May 7, 2015
UPDATED 5/8/15: This article contains information about the bear’s whereabouts as of Friday.
A bear that was recently seen in the Snyderville Basin is still on the lam and officials with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources believe he is leaving the area.
Multiple local and state agencies converged in Park City to track the bear after the animal was spotted roaming the Park Meadows neighborhood at approximately 4 a.m. Thursday morning. Officials with DWR, Wildlife Services, Summit County Sheriff’s Office and Park City Police Department participated in the search.
The sighting is one of several that have been reported since Friday. The Summit County Sheriff’s Office received calls over the weekend about a bear knocking over trash cans in the Jeremy Ranch and Pinebrook areas.
Colvy Jones, DWR’s wildlife program manager for the central region, said based on photos and the pattern movements of the bear, it is assumed there is only one bear. Jones identified the animal as a black bear, brown in color and approximately two years old.
DWR set up a trap in the yard of a residence on American Saddler Drive Thursday and tracked the animal throughout the neighborhood. Efforts were being taken to trap the bear and then determine how to proceed, Jones said.
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"Human life and safety are always our number one concern, followed closely by the bear’s health and safety," Jones said. "We want the best for both."
At this point, Jones said the animal has damaged some property and pulled down some bird feeders, but hasn’t shown any aggression towards humans. However, Jones was quick to add "we don’t want that to happen."
"That’s what we are trying to avoid," he said. "That’s why we are here and working on this.
"But I don’t think we have a highly ferocious bear," Jones said.
Most residents in Park Meadows didn’t seem overly concerned about the animal’s presence.
As officials were seen walking the winding streets of Park Meadows with three off-leash hounds attempting to track the bear, several residents were also out walking with dogs and working in the yard in spite of a reverse 911 call distributed city-wide by the Park City Police Department advising residents to "keep dogs inside and on leashes" as officials tracked the bear.
Neil Packer, a Park Meadows resident, was closely following the officials hoping to catch a glimpse of the bear.
"I think it’s exciting that a bear is in the neighborhood," Packer said. "I’m from the area, but I’ve never seen a bear here."
Park City High School senior Ryan Hodge and three friends took part in the action, driving and walking around the neighborhood. Hodge said they heard there was a bear and said it "beat going to school."
At approximately 11:30 a.m., nearby schools went into "shelter mode," an emergency response intended to isolate people inside from any exterior hazards by entering predetermined interior rooms or areas. The schools lifted the precaution at 1 p.m.
Jason Glidden, a City Hall employee who was on site during the search, said the city’s main concern is public safety.
"We are putting out bear safety facts and especially notifying trail users as well to make sure they know what precautions they should take," Glidden said.
The bear was reportedly last seen at approximately 6:30 a.m. in the Iron Horse district moving south towards City Park, according to Phil Kirk, Park City Police Captain.
The bear was seen by public works staffers, but wasn’t reported to dispatch until approximately 3:30 p.m., Kirk said.
Later Thursday, at approximately noon, Jones said a last-ditch effort would be made with the dogs, but then tracking would cease until another sighting is reported. The search was officially suspended at 3:30 p.m. due to weather and has not been resumed.
According to an email from Kirk late Thursday night, three more sightings were reported.
But Jones said based on the sightings, the bear is moving south and will "hopefully get out of the city."
"If we have continued sightings we will obviously respond as quickly as we can," he said.
Extensive efforts were taken to successfully track and potentially trap the animal, with multiple local and state agencies assisting.
"It’s part of the unpredictability of wildlife and something we deal with every year all the time," he said. "The problem is not going away and is going to happen more and more as we increase in population and we need to be cognizant to that.
"Everybody hopes for the best and quickest outcome and we don’t always get that," he said.
The bear’s presence isn’t uncommon for the season and the area, Jones said, especially since the bear population is "doing really well."
"And one of the consequences of that is there are more human-bear conflicts," he said. "But be aware that this is early to start having bear problems and that’s always concerning. Drought will increase bear-human conflicts and we’ve had a pretty dry winter. Luckily we’ve had some storms, but we still could have more conflicts this year."
Jones advised homeowners to be cognizant of any invitations for bears and wildlife unknowingly placed in their yards.
"Out here you have water features, bird feeders, barbecues and garbage, this is a bear paradise," he said. "We create bear paradise, but then we say ‘Don’t come here.’ In bear paradise we need to be cognizant to the fact that we are always going to have these conflicts."
Muggins Haerter, a Park Meadows resident, said while she isn’t afraid of bears, she just doesn’t want them to start coming into the neighborhoods to forage.
"That’s what we get worried about," Haerter said. "And it does worry me they are down this low. I will probably be a little more diligent in my yard now because I do have a dog and probably when I’m walking around Round Valley be a little more aware."
For more information about black bears in Utah, go to http://wildlife.utah.gov/learn-more/bear-safety.html or http://wildawareutah.org/ .