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Bear activity closes several campsites in Maple Canyon

MAPLE CANYON, Sanpete County — The mountains are attracting a lot of people to campgrounds, and wildlife managers find themselves again reminding people about bear-safe camping after one popular area has been closed because a bear keeps returning to the area foraging for discarded food.

Maple Canyon in Sanpete County is known for its unique rock climbing opportunities and scenic camping locations.

“The climbing is spectacular here, and it’s kind of become like an annual trip for us to come climb in the summer months,” said Tracy Wilson, who is visiting from Colorado.

But this year, Wilson noticed several warning signs about bears in the canyon.

“We’ve always kind of wondered if there’s bears in this environment, but this time it seems like there's a little visitor that’s been coming down on the campsites,” Wilson said.

Signs are posted in Maple Canyon, warning campers of the bear problem in the campground. The Forest Service closed campsites 1-6 indefinitely as a precaution because of the recent bear activity; only campers who are in hard-shell trailers or sleeping in their vehicles are allowed in those sites.

A bear was spotted twice in the area.

“The first part of May it came in because of a dirty camp,” said Sgt. Matt Riggs with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. “There were food products left, there was a frying pan on the table that had just lots of really good bacon grease in it for the bear to come in and enjoy.”

A houndsman came in and chased the bear over the top of the mountain. But the bear came back about a month later.

“Another dirty camp, garbage had been left in the camp,” Briggs said. “There were items in the fire pit that they had tried to burn, food products that they hadn’t burned completely.”

He said since the bear was rewarded the first time, it came back a second time.

To keep everyone safe, Briggs said, the best thing campers can do is to clean up after themselves.

“Keep a clean camp,” Briggs said. “Anything you haul in, please haul it out. Any food products, find a way to dispose of them so that we’re not attracting the bears into the campgrounds and into the areas where people are camping.”

Wilson said the bear warning hasn't changed her plans, as she's keeping the food in a hard-shell container that is stored in the van at night.

“We actually do usually sleep in the van, but I think we’ve been much more on top of keeping our food all inside this trip,” she said.

Contributing: Viviane Vo-Duc