Rogue black bear shot and killed by officers
June 30, 2007
The killing of a roughly 4-year-old black bear on Tuesday that was trapped by wildlife officers in the Uinta Mountains has prompted speculation that the animal was destroyed because recently a different bear killed an 11-year-old boy in Utah County.
But wildlife officers insist each bear that becomes a nuisance in the state is dealt with case by case.
"We made a conscious attempt to put that tragic event out of our minds and just focus in on our policy," said Justin Dolling, a regional wildlife manager for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. "To make an impartial decision, you need to get that out of the equation."
An officer shot the bear in the head after the animal was tranquilized Tuesday in Kamas, he explained.
"It’s a natural human reaction to feel compassion for the animal and unfortunately humans allowed the animal to become habituated," Dolling said. "Once they [exhibit] that behavior it’s difficult if not impossible to get that out of their minds."
Sadly, "a fed bear is a dead bear," said Kevin Bunnell, the Division of Wildlife Resources mammals program coordinator.
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"We don’t make a level three designation lightly. Unfortunately, it has to happen and it’s part of the job that we perform in the state," Bunnell said, adding that bears classified like this one are always marked for death. "Anytime a bear poses a significant threat to human safety then it’s classified as a level three bear."
Bears that show no fear of humans by being active at campsites in the day could be dangerous, he said.
For weeks the popular Ledgefork campground in the Wasatch-Cache National Forest was closed as officers tracked the black bear blamed for raiding garbage cans and trying to enter someone’s cabin.
"It’s unfortunate when we end up having to put down a bear. It’s not something that we enjoy doing or look forward to doing," Bunnell said.
This latest bear episode in Summit County began about 15 miles east of Oakley near Smith and Morehouse reservoir when the black bear killed Tuesday allegedly ate from trash containers inside the campground.
"We feel extremely confident that this is the bear we chased from the Ledgefork campground a week ago," DWR conservation officer Bruce Johnson said, adding that chasing a bear from a campground often keeps them from returning.
By using bacon in a round culvert trap the officer detained the black bear Monday night and officials reopened the campground on Thursday.
"We’re making sure that some of the problems that we experience, that drew the bear in, are taken care of," Johnson said.
The bear killed Tuesday was the fifth black bear exterminated by the DWR this year.
"These things come in droves," Bunnell said. "It’s usually all or nothing with bears."
One reason a dozen bears have become nuisances in the Wasatch Range this year is because the production of cubs was strong in Northern Utah two years ago.
"We already have been dealing with higher than normal bears," Bunnell said, adding that non-lethal methods are usually used to control younger bears.
Still, bear problems could escalate this summer as drought conditions worsen. The range for adult black bears, which are solitary creatures that can have blond, brown or dark fur, is about five miles.
"Our best strategy is to keep people educated in terms of how to act and how to keep their camps if they’re out camping in areas where there are bears," Bunnell said. "Once a bear has become conditioned to getting food from people or where people are, unfortunately, that often results in the bear having to be removed. If we could alter our own behavior in that country there would be less of that."
Keeping campsites and yards clean, trash cans covered and securing food discourages bears from visiting neighborhoods or campgrounds, biologists say.
Johnson warned that birdfeeders and pet food also attract bears looking for easy meals.