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Bear spotted in Deer Valley

by Jay Hamburger OF THE RECORD STAFF

Chuck English sends his crews onto the slopes of Deer Valley Resort every day, in the summer and the winter, and says it has been about 12 years since the last time someone spotted a bear.

English, who directs Deer Valley’s mountain operations, recollects that the animal then was a black bear, the same kind that officials believe was seen last week in the Deer Valley area.

"I guess with the amount of activity around here, it’s surprising — construction, housing, people living here. It’s not really in a wilderness area," English says about the Saturday sighting on Woodland View Drive, a small street off the upper reaches of Royal Street.

The Park City Police Department received a report of the bear at 1:12 p.m. with a caller saying that a woman saw the animal. It had left, however, the caller told the police.

A witness tells The Park Record that the bear, which the person describes as very dark, was spotted on a wooded hillside. The witness, who declines to provide a name, says that a dog chased the bear for a few minutes before the animal left the area.

Rick Ryan, a Police Department lieutenant, says that the bear was seen in the morning but the person who called dispatchers delayed the report. The caller told the police that a friend saw the animal as well, Ryan says.

An officer investigated but did not see a bear, Ryan says.

"I’m going to take the caller’s word that it was a bear," Ryan says. "It’s pretty easy to distinguish a bear."

Bear sightings are rare in the Park City area. The mountains ringing Park City are known for moose and deer but bears are not believed to live in the immediate area in great numbers.

Ryan says the last bear sighting in Park City he is familiar with occurred about 12 years ago on the Park City Golf Course. English remembers the last bear at Deer Valley was seen at about 7 a.m. at a maintenance shop nearby Stein Eriksen Lodge.

"Though it’s rare when they’re seen, I don’t think it’s unusual. They’re here," Ryan says.

He says that the Police Department does not plan to investigate further.

Dave Swenson, the conservation officer for the Jordanelle district of the state Division of Wildlife Resources, which includes Park City, says his office did not send someone to investigate the sighting because the person provided little information.

He says that the division does not plan to try to trap the bear in order to relocate the animal.

Swenson agrees that bear sightings are rare in Park City and says, perhaps, such a call is received once every five years. He says that black bears are the only kind of bears that live in Utah and that they generally spend their time in high elevations. They are seen, however, from the timberline to valley floors, including in the Heber foothills.

"They’re very secretive, nocturnal. Bear sightings are rare," Swenson says.

Swenson says that black bears are docile and, "not very dangerous at all." Still, he warns that people should not approach the animals.

"You’d want to give it all the space and distance you can," he says. "Very seldom are they dangerous, as long as you keep your distance from them."

Swenson says that the Utah black bears feed on wild berries. An average adult black bear weighs between 200 and 400 pounds, he says.

He suggests that people secure their garbage against bears.

Swenson says that dogs could startle a bear and, if that occurs, the bear may not retreat.

"If a dog approached a bear, a bear is very likely to defend himself," Swenson says.

He says, however, that the bears tend to avoid contact.

"They’re a lot more afraid of running into a person than a person is running into them," he says.


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