The Park Record editorial, July 29, 2009 | ParkRecord.com

The Park Record editorial, July 29, 2009

Too many bear deaths due to human negligence

If it is true that bad luck runs in batches, it is a good summer not to be a bear. Five have been shot in northern Utah this month. Their crime? Getting too accustomed to that new predator in the neighborhood people.

According to the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, all of the bears were shot by private citizens who felt threatened by the creatures. None was shot by wildlife officers. In fact, DWR officials are concerned about the shootings and emphasize that the animals are a protected species and killing them should be a last resort.

At least one of the incidents took place in Summit County where a bear had begun hovering near a popular camping area.

The confrontations are particularly troubling because there is no apparent reason for an escalation in bear/human encounters. The drought seems to have lifted, so there should be plenty of forage for the bears and, so far, there have been no large fires in the forest which would have displaced them from their natural habitat. Also, according to the DWR, there has not been an uptick in bear sightings.

So what has changed this year?

For one thing, there are more people recreating in and around the national forests. The so-called staycation has put additional pressure on the campgrounds in the Uintas, at Rockport State Park and along the shores of the Jordanelle Reservoir. There are also more people looking to escape the summer heat by retreating to their summer cabins in the mountains.

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It is therefore inevitable that bears are stumbling across the paths of more people.

But there is another factor one that could reduce the number of potentially fatal conflicts. If forest visitors would take a few simple precautions with food and trash around their campsites and cabins, and if they paid closer attention to cleaning up after themselves, there might be five majestic bears still roaming on the range.

The DWR website has a number of suggestions for bear-wise camping. Log on to http://www.wildlife.utah.gov/bearsafety to learn more. If you do see a bear, though, it should be reported to the DWR by calling 1-800-662-DEER (3337) or 911. In many cases wildlife officers can redirect or relocate a problem bear.

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