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Tips for staying safe in bear country

According to the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, black bears are the only native bear species in Utah, and they have an amazing sense of smell. They also have no problem eating the same type of food people eat. As a result, many of the conflicts betw
According to the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, black bears are the only native bear species in Utah, and they have an amazing sense of smell. They also have no problem eating the same type of food people eat. As a result, many of the conflicts between people and bears happen because the bears start scavenging for the food humans cook and eat in the bear’s natural habitat.
Utah Division of Wildlife Resources

SALT LAKE CITY — Don’t feed the bears.

That's one of several tips on avoiding black bears from the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources as Utahns head outdoors this summer.

According to the division, black bears are the only native bear species in Utah, and they have an amazing sense of smell. They also have no problem eating the same type of food people eat. As a result, many of the conflicts between people and bears happen because the bears start scavenging for the food humans cook and eat in the bear’s natural habitat.

“Even though they’re incredibly strong and surprisingly fast, black bears will typically do everything they can to avoid people,” Darren DeBloois, mammals coordinator for the division, said in a statement.

“When a bear finds food, though, that all changes. Once it finds food, a bear will often become aggressive toward anything it perceives as threatening the area where it found the food. That includes people.”

Here are some other simple tips to keep the bears at bay:

• Store food, snacks and scented items (deodorant and toothpaste) in an area where a bear can’t smell or get to them. Storing them in a locked trailer or locking them in the trunk of a car are both good options.

• Thoroughly clean utensils and anything else that was used to prepare or eat food. Don’t dump oil or grease from pots or pans onto the ground. Instead, put the oil or grease in a container and take it home.

• Don’t toss food scraps and other trash around campsites or cabins. Instead, put it in trash bags and take it home. Make sure to wipe down picnic tables and keep the area free of food and other debris.

What to do if you encounter a bear?

• Stand your ground: Never back up, lie down or play dead. Stay calm and give the bear a chance to leave. Prepare to use your bear spray or another deterrent.

• Don’t run away or climb a tree. Black bears are excellent climbers and can run up to 35 mph.

• If a bear stands up, grunts, moans or makes other sounds, it's not being aggressive. These are the ways a bear gets a better look or smell and expresses its interest.

• If a black bear attacks, always fight back. And never give up! People have successfully defended themselves with almost anything: rocks, sticks, backpacks water bottles and even their hands and feet.

For more tips on staying safe around black bears, visit the DWR website and the Wild Aware Utah website. A video about bear safety is also available on theDWR YouTube channel.