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Bear attacks 13-year-old boy near Moab

Utah Division of Wildlife Resources searching for young bear to euthanize it

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources is searching for a bear that bit a 13-year-old boy Friday while he was camping near Moab.

The boy was sleeping outside in a sleeping bag at the Dewey Bridge Campground along the Colorado River when he was attacked about 5:45 a.m., the DWR said. The boy, who is from Colorado, was injured on his right cheek and ear.

A black bear attacked a 13-year-old boy at the Dewey Bridge Campground in Grand County on the morning of Friday, Aug. 9, 2019.
A black bear attacked a 13-year-old boy at the Dewey Bridge Campground in Grand County on the morning of Friday, Aug. 9, 2019.
Division of Wildlife Resources

He went to the emergency room in Moab, then was taken by ambulance to a hospital in Grand Junction, Colorado, for special cosmetic treatment, according to Darren DeBloois, mammals coordinator for the Division of Wildlife Resources. He has since been released.

Based on the boy's description of the bear, officials believe it was likely a young black bear, about 2 years old, DeBloois said. The teenager said the bear was about the same size as him.

The campground has now been closed indefinitely as the Division of Wildlife Resources and USDA-Wildlife Services attempt to track and capture the bear. Search crews attempted to find the bear by following its tracks but were unsuccessful, DeBloois said. Traps have also been set in the area.

The bear will be euthanized when it is found.

Bear attacks that result in human injuries are "very unusual" in Utah, DeBloois said, but the state's growing bear population is "very active" this time of year. The bear was likely passing through the campground looking for water and berries, he said. It was last seen heading toward the Colorado River.

This is the second bear attack in the Beehive State this summer. On June 18, a boy received minor scratches when a bear entered a campsite in Hobble Creek Canyon in Utah County. That bear was tracked and killed.

Incidents of bears rummaging through Utah campgrounds are also up this year: the number of incidents in July was more than twice what it was the previous year, the Division of Wildlife Resources said last month.

Campers are urged not to leave food out, and to clean up their campsites when they leave, DeBloois said.

He said the teen who was attacked Friday didn't appear to have left out any food or done anything else to invite or provoke the bear. DeBloois described the attack as a "chance encounter" that happened simply because the teen was "in the wrong place at the wrong time."

If you do happen to come across a bear, he said, it's important to "make yourself look large" and to not run away.

"Don't make yourself seem vulnerable or like something they might want to chase or eat," he said.

And if that bear attacks, "fight back." The teen in the Friday attack yelled when the bear attacked him, causing the bear to run off, DeBloois said.

"He did all the right things," he said.