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Bear activity forces closure of 2 campgrounds

Also, bear snared near LDS Church camp site

SHARE Bear activity forces closure of 2 campgrounds
A bear that was captured in a snare near Indianola Tuesday was relocated by DWR officials to forest land about 25 miles away in Sanpete County.

A bear that was captured in a snare near Indianola Tuesday was relocated by DWR officials to forest land about 25 miles away in Sanpete County.

Alan Neves, KSL-TV

OREM — An outbreak of bear encounters in southern Utah County led forest officials to close two campgrounds and relocate one bear — all in the same day.

Uinta National Forest Supervisor Brian Ferebee issued closures Tuesday for Blackhawk Campground in Payson Canyon and Tinney Flat Campground in Santaquin Canyon because of bear activity in the area.

Also Tuesday, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources officials snared a bear near Indianola that has been frequenting a girls camp site operated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The bear was relocated about 25 miles away to forest land in Sanpete County.

"We're still advising people, where we can, to be really careful with the food in their campgrounds and make sure they're stored in their vehicles," said John Fairchild, supervisor of the Central Region of the Division of Wildlife Resources. "It's kind of non-stop right now."

According to Uinta National Forest spokeswoman Loyal Clark, the number of campground closures so far this summer is unusually high. In June and the first three days of July, the U.S. Forest Service has issued at least three camp closures in Utah County alone, which is unheard of, Clark says.

"It would be unusual for us to close one campground, historically," Clark said. "This is an unusual year."

One reason for the increased campground closures is because the area's black bears are coming unusually close to humans to forage for food. But another reason is that the Forest Service and DWR have been receiving many more calls about bear sightings, following the tragic death of 11-year-old Samuel Ives in American Fork Canyon about three weeks ago.

Ives was killed by a black bear and the incident was highly publicized throughout the state.

"We're getting a lot more calls," Fairchild said. "People used to just see a bear and they'd think, 'That's a bear,' and they went on their business, but now we're getting contacted on all of them."

On Tuesday, the bear moved by the DWR was spotted in the girls camp site and nearby private campground. DWR officials decided to relocate the animal after it damaged a four-wheeler while foraging for food on the nearby Big Horn Ranch.

This is the second closure of the season for Blackhawk Campground, a popular site located on the Nebo loop. DWR officials placed traps in the campground three weeks ago to catch a bear that had been foraging in a nearby Dumpster, but the traps were unsuccessful.

After several days of setting traps for the bear, the animal did not return to the campsite and Blackhawk Campground was reopened. However, when forest officials replaced the Dumpster, signs of the bear reappeared.

New bear traps have been placed in hopes of relocating the bear away from the area.

"It is our intent to work with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources and take appropriate management action to address the concerns we have regarding bear activity in the area," Ferebee said. "This management action includes closure of the campgrounds."

Both Blackhawk and Tinney Flat campgrounds are located in the Spanish Fork Ranger District and will remain closed until the bears have been captured or bear activity has diminished in the area.

In Tinney Flat Campground, a bear had been rummaging through a Dumpster. But after forest officials removed the container, the bear kept coming to the area to sniff through the campground.

Campers who have reservations at the two campgrounds will be offered opportunities in adjacent areas. The closures may affect activities through the Fourth of July weekend.

Campers are reminded to keep all campsites clean and store food in containers locked in vehicles. Food should never be stored in tents or left unattended on picnic tables.

Contributing: Tad Walch

E-mail: achoate@desnews.com