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DRY WINTER COULD SEND BEARS INTO LUSH, POPULATED AREAS

A dry winter and sparse mountain vegetation could lure southern Utah's bears into the region's more lush, populated areas this summer, wildlife officials warn.

Already, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources officers have been forced to shoot a yearling black bear that wandered into Panguitch.Wildlife biologist Norm McKee said the bear was spotted east of town last weekend. It was apparently scratching the door of Bulkley Taxidermy. McKee said this is where the bear was shot by DWR technician Bill Frandsen.

McKee said the dry winter has decimated much of the bear's natural forage of berries, grass and insects.

He said such encounters between bears and humans have been rare in southern Utah.

"This is the first time I have seen a bear in Panguitch in the 26 years I have been with the division," McKee said.

McKee said the division's policy is to destroy bears only if they cause harm or injury to human health or become a nuisance.

Kem Barnhurst, Panguitch, said her husband noticed two bears and was able to chase one of them back into the woods.