About 11 PM last night, a rouge black bear tore open a tent an 11-year old boy was sleeping in. A half hour later searchers found his remains 400 yards away. Dogs are tracked down the large black bear and it was shot.

The killing took place in American Fork Canyon in the Wasatch Mountains NE of Provo, Utah.

Story by By Nate Carlisle in the Salt Lake Tribune.

Update June 19. Boy Killed by Black Bear in Utah. CBS News.

June 23. Avoid the blame game in bear attack. Michael L. Wolfe. Salt Lake Tribune guest editorial.

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About The Author

Ralph Maughan

Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University with specialties in natural resource politics, public opinion, interest groups, political parties, voting and elections. Aside from academic publications, he is author or co-author of three hiking/backpacking guides, and he is President of the Western Watersheds Project.

50 Responses to Utah black bear rips open tent, carries off boy in sleeping bag, kills.

  1. avatar Gena says:

    I just heard about this news as I was driving to work this morning. I logged onto ksl.com and was reading what people are saying about this. It always amazes me how people respond to these kinds of situations. Plain and simple… if we want to visit bear country we need to take every precaution for our saftey. My heart goes out to the family of the boy and I also feel bad that there will be another bear put down. It needs to happen after an attack like this, but it is still sad. God bless.

  2. avatar Lori says:

    How incredibly sad for the family. I can not imagine what it would feel like to know your son has been taken by a bear and desperately trying to find him alive. I absolutely love the wilderness and enjoy wildlife of all kinds, but when the death of a child happens, it is very sobering. May God hold and comfort this family.

  3. avatar kim says:

    “It needs to happen after an attack like this, but it is still sad. God bless.”

    just curious,, if it had been a raping and killing of the kid by a pervert,, would you still have the same feeling,, that is,, they should be hunted down and killed,,right???,, and if not, why,, ???,,,what would really be the difference,, because we are humans,,,

  4. avatar Moose says:

    Kim,

    Huh?

  5. avatar Joe S. says:

    “I also feel bad that there will be another bear put down”

    WOW….

    Are you serious>>>?

    ” if we want to visit bear country we need to take every precaution for our saftey”

    What exactly would you suggest…hang our kids in trees with the food at night!?!?!?!?!?!

  6. avatar SAP says:

    Well, it is sad all around, but there’s not much we can do for a bear like that besides kill it.

    The precaution that went untaken here was doing something about this bear before its food-seeking behaviors led to this.

    The best precaution would have been to have kept the bear from ever getting an unnatural meal. That probably led it to get comfortable around people, and to get bolder and bolder in seeking people’s food. Eventually, the bear apparently decided to try people as prey.

    It’s purely speculative to say whether the bear was really trying to prey on a child, or, as the agency guy in the story says, was just interested in something the bear smelled in or around the tent. Regardless of what the bear intended to do, it was comfortable enough to enter a campground, enter a tent, and then attack and kill the poor kid.

    The agencies will scramble to cover their butts. They’ll probably pay a huge tort settlement, and then get pretty harsh with problem bears.

    Let’s hope they decide to be way more proactive in the future by trying to prevent bears from ever getting unnatural food rewards. A fed bear is a dead bear, and sometimes he takes people with him on his way down.

  7. avatar Moose says:

    They apparently have killed the bear involved in this incident.
    http://www.comcast.net/news/national/index.jsp?cat=DOMESTIC&fn=/2007/06/18/692849.html&cvqh=itn_bear

    Still no info pertaining to whether this bear was previously ‘fed’ by humans – intentional or unintentional, or whether the family took all or any precautions regarding proper food storage. The ranger in the above article does note that area bears are stressed due to drought conditions.

  8. avatar Mike Wolf says:

    Wow is all I can say…to the comments here.

    A bear attacked a child, and our response is to attack each others’ opinions. Amazing.

    You know, I feel SO MUCH safer in the woods around bears, coyotes, wolves, grizzlies, elk, moose, even mountain lions than I do around people.

    Okay, here’s how it is. There’s this thing we call “wilderness”. It is untamed. It is wild. There are no laws of man that animals must follow. There isn’t anyone to watch your back for you while you are in the wilderness. You are on your own. You are there to enjoy the peace and quiet, the serenity, the beauty. There are wild animals out there capable of killing you and your children. You must be aware of these dangers, and if you don’t take the necessary precautions, you are at risk for things, such as what happened.

    When a bear attacks a human, unfortunately, that bear falls under man’s laws, and must be killed. The reasoning behind this is valid; that once a bear gets the taste for humans, it will kill again. It isn’t sad. It isn’t horrible. It just is what it is.

    What humans do to each other doesn’t have a shred of a thing to do with this issue.

    Please folks, this is a forum for coming together and discussing issues LIKE ADULTS, in a mature and respectful manner. There is no reason to attack each other. Keep your emotions in check. Sit back and think before you write comments here, please. Passion is definitely appreciated, but not when it is misdirected unjustifiably at our fellow man.

  9. avatar elkhunter says:

    I live about 10 minutes away from where this happened. There are thousands of people that visit there every year. Its very sad, I feel for the family.

  10. Moose made a great point; All of the details surrounding this horrible attack have not been published. And that ranger may not be able to find the evidence that will answer every question.

    First point, and the most important, the family will need a lot of support from their community to try and deal with the tragic loss of their son.

    Second, it is important to take this time following this story to remind the public about every precaution that needs to be considered when hiking or camping in bear country. I think that one precaution some may not think of is; to NEVER, EVER, wear clothing that has been worn while cooking or eating, to sleep in. Anything that could have possibly touched food should never go in the tent. Even non-food items like minty toothpaste, shampoo, etc., will attract a bear. And food wrappers, soda cans… There is a lot to think about…

  11. avatar JEFF E says:

    I feel terrible and the family has all of my prayers condolences, and any support I may have to offer. To follow up a little bit to d. bailey hill, things to not have in a tent with you would include the family dog, especially the little yappy breeds. To a bear that would be just an appetizer calling . but whatever all the circumstances surrounding this tragedy may be, it is still a terribly sad story.

  12. avatar Buffaloed says:

    All I can say is that I’m sorry this happened.

  13. And I can say, we still don’t know all that much about what happened other than than bear took the boy and killed him, the bear probably swiped though another tent earlier, and the bear was tracked and shot.

    The bear did weigh 300 pounds.

    How about condition of bear? Sex of bear? Arrangement of other campers? Was the boy dead or dead and partially eaten? What odor might have been in the tent or on his sleeping bag? What is the bear density in the area? Are there bear attractants around the camping area?

  14. avatar DLG says:

    We need to stop and think about this when we are disposing of or holding our waste for disposal while we are camping in bear country. We may also have to revisit our habits such as washing up after handling food or eating.

  15. I’d like to (not 100% word-perfectly) quote the comedian Billy Connolly on this one (speaking on the subject of shark attacks): ‘where were the people? IN THE SEA! Tough!’ If you go camping in bear country, it seems pretty damn obvious that if you go camping in bear country then you might get attacked by a bear.

    I’m sorry for the poor kid that died, and for his family, but people should pick camping spots that don’t contain bears (or anything else that eats people).

  16. avatar Drew says:

    Was there food in the sleeping bag as well? The TV news specifically panned in on a cracker jacks box but then made no comment.

  17. avatar Vicki says:

    It is saddening to hear of this family’s loss. My heart goes out to them. No amount of explaining the situation will ease their loss, their child is sill gone.
    Who actually knows what precautions were or were not taken? Perhaps the best thing that could have been done was to close the area to camping until the bear was located and dealt with, since it had swiped into a tent earlier. I was always taught that a bear trying to enter your tent should always be seen as a predatory attack. No matter what was done, or what could of been done, camping in bear country is always a risk. Even the most precautious camper can become an unfortunate statistic. Animals are simply not hat predictable. Be aware of the risks you take, and camp wisely.
    I’ll say a prayer for the boy and his family.
    I also hope that people realize that this time of year always makes for a lot of bear hype. People enter bear country and the inevitable happens, we have human-bear interaction. Just beacuse we hear about it a lot, does not mean that the attacks are more prevalant than any other year. It just makes for more sensationalized press. You are still more likely to be hit by a bus than killed by a bear.

  18. avatar Monty says:

    This reminds me of an incident in Oregon where a man & his son were camping at a lake in an “Old-Growth” forest & a snag fell & killed his son. I can’t imagine the grief that this man felt as he walked–alone–out to the road to notify his wife & others. The odds of being killed by a bear or tree are rare but a life changing experience when it occurs.

  19. If you count the occupation of logging, the odds of being killed by a falling tree are significant.

    I have had close calls with falling trees 3 times — twice in the Teton Wilderness and once in the Beaverheads.

    1. I was across the South Fork of the Buffalo from a big old Douglas fir, with no wind it suddenly broke in two and fell aside the river (90 degrees from me). A different path would have clearly put it over me.

    2. Near timberline on the Buffalo Plateau, I was sitting under a clump of stunted, but heavy, Engelmann spruce. A small black cloud formed. I didn’t think much about it until a sudden, rapidly growing wind came (microburst). I felt the trees might go, and I ran like hell. In a couple seconds the clump was uprooted (wet soil) and on top of where I was sitting. The wind was gone in 20 seconds.

    3. A sudden spring snowstorm left me stranded for a while in the Beaverhead Mountains. I was camped near the stream and a beaver pond full of fish. During the night a beaver chewed down a 8-10 inch diameter aspen. It fell next to my tent. I didn’t realize it until morning. The snow muffled the noise and the running water of the beaver chewing.

    Note: I haven’t heard this mentioned before, but there are obvious dangers of camping, sitting, etc. around an active beaver pond.

  20. avatar john99 says:

    Very tragic accident. I hope the family is able to pull through alright. Even though attacks are rare, I think that families with young children travelling in bear country should strongly consider electric fencing around their tent, especially during extended stays.

  21. avatar SAP says:

    It’s good to encourage people to be VERY careful while in bear country.

    At the same time, we should avoid conveying wildly inaccurate views of bears.

    Stephen Colbert likes to call grizzlies “Godless killing machines.” I worry that we sometimes portray bears as “mindless food-seeking machines.”

    Bears aren’t ants or sharks. They’re intelligent, have good memories, and will generally avoid situations that present clear and potent risks.

    So, I have a hard time imagining that a bear is going to rip into a tent and kill a person because that person has a trial-size tube of Crest. NOT THAT I WANT TO ENCOURAGE PEOPLE TO KEEP TOILETRIES OR OTHER POTENTIAL ATTRACTANTS IN THEIR TENTS.

    In 1984, Swiss national Brigitta Fredenhagen backpacked into YNP’s Pelican Valley. She was pulled out of her tent, killed, and partially consumed by a grizzly bear that presumably was never captured. Apparently, she had a little chocolate, a lighter, and some lip balm in the tent. Did those things get her killed?

    Who knows? Better safe than sorry, obviously. But Ms. Fredenhagen’s tent was also right along a heavily used bear trail, and maybe a medium sized mammal sound asleep was too much for the bear to resist. How much smell could those objects have? How much experience would an apparently wild bear have with chocolate and lip balm?

    I don’t have the answers here — and again, better safe than sorry — but I think bears are pretty smart. I think they would typically know there’s a person in that tent. They’re not mindlessly thrashing in there looking for chocolate or Cracker Jacks, and somehow chomping down on a person by mistake.

    One hypothesis (especially in the Bear 15/ Roger May predatory mauling of 1983 at Hebgen Lake) is that a food conditioned bear may bump into or rip open a tent in search of food, then go into a predation sequence because of the movement and struggling of the people. If you’ve ever played with a house cat, you could see how that might happen.

    Again, though, that hypothesis assumes a level of familiarity or comfort with tents, especially tents with people in them. Bears would generally only develop that kind of familiarity or even attraction because they have received food rewards for being near tents and people — although non-reward familiarity could have similar results.

    My point (do I have one?) is that while we ought to be very very careful, we shouldn’t misunderstand bears. We should be careful and aware at all times — my lesson from the Fredenhagen (and Treadwell?) fatality is don’t make camp where it’s easy for a bear to slip up on you noiselessly.

    While I DON’T keep chocolate or lip balm in my tent, I think that choice of site is probably a bigger factor in my survival. If I present a bear — almost any bear — with an easy opportunity to kill me while I slumber, I’m at great risk, regardless of what I smell like.

    Going on what I’ve read so far, the bear that killed the boy in Utah likely was getting food rewards along the American Fork. I base that on the popularity of the area and the lack of food storage regulations (we have USFS food storage regs here in Montana, and I’m still amazed by the blatant non-compliance I see, so I think anthropogenic food is probably way more available on the American Fork).

    Hunger and familiarity with people may have then driven the bear to begin trying people as prey (thus the swatting at the first guy through the tent wall). Repeated exposure to potential prey items can lead predators to give novel species a try. It’s a bit of a nuanced point, but that’s a different sequence than what is being portrayed in some news stories: bear learned about people food, bear smells people food in tent, bear rips into tent and somehow ends up killing the boy.

    The risks of inaccurately portraying bears as mindless food-seeking machines: inordinate fear of bears among the general public; and paradoxically, disregarding the potential predatory behavior of all bears, even ones that have never received unnatural food rewards.

    Probably the worst scenario is that a person would be absolutely squeaky-clean, storing everything properly, keeping all sleeping gear odor-free, yet end up paying the price for someone else’s mistakes by getting killed by a food-conditioned bear that has decided to see what those bipeds taste like.

  22. avatar Chris Sonderegger says:

    I’m not about to judge this unfortunate family about what precautions they did or didn’t take.

    Generally however, most people living in urban areas have a tendency to think bears and other wildlife exist only in the most remote wilderness areas (oh, and Yellowstone Park), despite warnings in both developed and primitive camp sites much closer to home.

    I have seen far too many examples (the most recent being campers who left their uncleaned bbq grill and remains of their meal sitting on their campsite picnic table overnight) of urbanites who don’t think there’s anything more dangerous than a rockchuck or mouse lurking in our campgrounds.

    Here in Salt Lake, I’m hearing folks talk about how shocked and horrified they are that bears (3 of them in the last 2 months) have been seen within 30 miles of downtown SLC. I even heard a person at work today say, “Either move ’em to Yellowstone or kill ’em!”

    I sincerely hope this tragic incident serves as a reminder that wildlife literally lives in our back yard, and that we all much more cautious and conscious of what we need to do to protect it, and ourselves.

    Incidentally, the dumb asses who left their grill and food out were rudely awakaned in the middle of the night (as were the rest of us) by a family of very happy racoons. Who knew there were real, live, racoons in the mountains?!?!

  23. avatar elkhunter says:

    I doubt it was hunger related, I look for elk and deer in that area all the time, and it is far from a desolate area, there is a river that runs through the area, many meadows and all sorts of wildlife ranging from bighorn to deer, grouse elk and everything in between, I just think it was a bear accustomed to people, that got brave and his instincts took over. All in all a very sad event. But I dont think it was hunger related, Iheard the bear weighed over 300 lbs. so should be pretty healthy. Like I said, the bear lived in really good habitat.

  24. avatar be says:

    i cannot imagine the loss of one of my sons. the life in their eyes sustains me.

    we take precaution – with everything. my sons buckle up in their car-seats, they know not to walk on the road. we don’t live in an urban area with frequent drive-bys, we don’t live under the power lines.

    i don’t know the precautions that this family took. but regardless, the level of certainty, of safety, that i would hope for my children is not attainable – it’s an expectation we convince ourselves into – all too frequently to be dissapointed.

    i feel for the family – and hope that the family is able to emerge from the guilt of the aforementioned expectation. there is nothing unique about children dying – many die in intersections, under bright probing lights and sterility, within explosive flashes showering communities in the middle east.

    what’s unique, at least from my perspective – and perhaps i am wrong to project what i would have for myself like this – is the opportunity to have that moment be amidst the natural world. amidst the wild.

    perhaps that’s easy to say ~ absolutely that’s easy to say from where i’m standing ~ i’m sorry.

  25. avatar SAP says:

    Thanks for good local perspective, elkhunter.

  26. Most likely it is the drought that brings the bears down to lower elevations foraging for food. We live in Beaver Mountain and last week I awoke in the middle of the night to a cinnamon black bear on the back porch. I was startled to say the least! Just looking at me throught the glass door. Dogs barking loudly inside didn’t even phase him. They don’t seem to be as scared of human environement as the Wild Life Folks would like for us to believe…

  27. avatar elkhunter says:

    Is it really a drought down there? I was in Richfield just a couple of weeks ago and there is still snow in the mountains! And Otter Creek and Paiute both looked pretty full. I think that the Fish and Game is looking for some sort of explanation of why the bear did what he did. But I dont think it was drought, the campground he was killed at is almost at 8000 feet. Hardly someones backyard. And I would not consider that low elevation.

    A drought is not simple. You have to consider both long term and short term droughts. Long term droughts lower rivers, dry up springs and reservoirs. On top of a long term drought, the short term might be normal, droughty or even above normal, wet.

    If you look at the Palmer Index on-line, it gives both the long-term and short-term drought/wet conditions for the United States. Ralph Maughan

  28. avatar Gena says:

    A local news station went up to the same campground the day after this horrible incident took place. They showed a campground and how the fire pit was full of garbage, half full can of refried beans, paper plates that still had food reminents on them, etc. I would think that even a healthy bear would be attracted to this… maybe that is why he is so healthy in the first place???? It’s all speculation. I do want to thank Mike Wolf for his above statement… well put.

  29. avatar Joe says:

    When I traveled to my first National Park I was naive, like many others and I didn’t understand the effects of feeding wildlife; perhaps I didn’t care. I was 19, camping in Yosemite Valley, California and I knew I was in black bear country. One night, because of my own selfish desire I attempted to see a black bear by feeding it. Unfortunately, this was not the right decision. That same week, a black bear broke into a car at the camp site. It literally peeled the doors open like a sardine can. I was probably not the only one that attempted to feed a bear that summer but I was a part of the problem. I learned that feeding wildlife, especially in bear country can be very harmful to both the people and wildlife. Please refrain from feeding wildlife especially in bear country. When bears are fed they habituate to an area and often times this leads to bears breaking into homes, property damage, and sometimes death or injury. Bears are not dangerous, but when a bear begins relying on an area where humans are living, bad habitats like improper garbage disposal and feeding wildlife can lead to dangerous situations. Please stop feeding wildlife, especially in bear country. Animals are built to survive to in the wild and our food can be hurtful. Please help protect wildlife. Ninety percent of all incidents are likely associated with habituated, food-conditioned.

    Myspace.com/JMCDMB

  30. avatar elkhunter says:

    90 percent because of habituated feeding? Where are you getting your numbers, I know grizzly bear attacks rarely occur from someone feeding a grizzly bear, more along the lines of surprising one on a kill, running into a sow with cubs, or just being at the wrong place at the wrong time. And bears ARE DANGEROUS, thats why they are predators, of course they dont hunt and kill people actively, they are still very DANGEROUS. Would you want a 500 lb grizzly bear chewing on you? Probably not

  31. avatar Dan says:

    I think what Joe means by that 90% number is that most predatory type grizzly attacks are caused by habituated bears. Healthy wild Griz will avoid human contact whenever possible. Assuming that you are doing what you’re supposed to while traveling in the backcountry.
    I think that phrase “grizzly bear attacks” is misleading because it’s just too general.
    Incidents with Bears can be classified in 2 ways: defensive attacks, like for instance when you run into a sow defending her cubs or a carcass, which is normal bear behavior. Or the very rare predatory offensive attack, as in this unfortunate case. These attacks are almost always done by a habituated bear.

  32. avatar elkhunter says:

    Dan, I dont believe that, there are numerous attacks that happen way in the wilderness areas in alaska and Canada, not to mention in the US also. I believe that some of the attacks are from habituated bears, but not 90 %

  33. avatar john99 says:

    It would be more likely that 90% or more of black bear attacks result from habituated feeding. Percentage is much lower in grizzlies because they are naturally more aggressive, and will attack in defense of cubs unlike black bears. It is a rarity almost that ive seen a case in which a non habituated black bear attacked a human.

  34. avatar SAP says:

    “Habituation: the simplest form of learning in which the reduction or loss of a response to a stimulus occurs as a result of repeated stimulation which is not followed by any kind of reinforcement.”

    — from A Dictionary of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics (Cambridge Press, 1998).

    A human-habituated bear has just learned to ignore or be comfortable near humans; it neither flees nor approaches.

    What we are talking about here are FOOD-CONDITIONED bears: they have received a positive reinforcement (food) for being in a campground, near a road, in a camp, whatever.

    While habituation can sometimes lead to food-conditioning, they are not the same thing. Unless we want to invent a new label for bears that neither flee nor approach people and do not seek human foods, we need to keep those terms straight.

    There are some habituated (in the correct sense of that word) bears in Yellowstone that forage for their natural foods near roads, often in plain view of people. These bears are at some risk of food conditioning IF some knucklehead tries to feed them. Otherwise, they’re just doing their thing, and they’re not a problem.

    The only problem is management of the people at bear jams.

    Read Herrero’s and Shelton’s books and you’ll find well-documented accounts of totally “wild” — neither habituated or food conditioned — bears attacking people. These seem to be in extremely remote places where bears have maybe never encountered people — so, due to the scarcity of such places and the low frequency of people visiting such places, these attacks are fortunately quite rare.

  35. avatar Dan says:

    Elkhunter, I don’t believe that 90% of all bear attacks are from habituated bears either. However I was trying to make a distinction between predatory attacks & defensive attacks. Predatory attacks are most often done by habituated bears, and is generally speaking (not always), not normal bear behavior.
    Defensive bear attacks are normal bear behavior. If you surprise a bear in the backcountry & get attacked, that’s normal behavior for them. Or for example when a certain wildlife photographer that we’ve all heard of follows Grizzlies with cubs to get photos, and gets mauled.

  36. avatar Dan says:

    Sorry hit submit too soon…
    Basically elkhunter my point is this, I agree that the 90% is probably not that accurate. You just seem, and correct me if I’m wrong, to be lumping all bear attacks together. Where as I’m not.
    I would guess that of “predatory” bear attacks, close to 90% are done by habituated bears.

  37. avatar john99 says:

    The percentage figure is probably high though if not as high as 90%. Not meaning for grizzlies but for black bears. Black bears are definitely more timid and will almost always run from humans. They grow more and more intrepid with food conditioning though and makes them much more likely to attack a human.

  38. avatar Brian A says:

    I saw a report on this and the night before, the bear had attacked another tent in that same spot. When they showed them on the news the people in the tent showed the tear in their tent and the paw print on the pillow. THEN they showed paw and bite marks in the cooler! Even a punctured mustard bottle. This just shows the bear was getting into human food the night ebfore but even with this fgootage on the news the stations didn’t comment on the fact that the people camping their the night before left their cooler out! Dumb.

  39. avatar Gena says:

    I have heard reports (I don’t know if they are accurate) that there was a package of beef jerky next to the boy that night. I’m just curious if anyone else heard anything about this? If this is true, I wish the media or the family would relay this information to the public so that we all can better understand what might have motivated this bear to attack. Knowledge is power and if we can learn from it and understand the importance of why there are rules or suggestions when camping in bear country, then maybe we could stop this from happening again.

    My heart just goes out to this family. We raise our children and tell them there is no such thing as monsters with fangs and claws… I just can’t imagine the feelings they are having. They are in my prayers.

  40. avatar john99 says:

    Regardless if there was a pack of beef jerky next to him, the press needs to get the message out that food scraps, leftover garbage, food in tents, etc, is the number one no-no when it comes to camping in bear country. The adults there with their children need to understand that improper food storage is very serious! Once a bear takes to human food, it will become dependent on that and will come to rely on it as a major food source. Food conditioned bears have little fear of humans because they associate them with food, and as we all should know, anyone getting between a bear and its food, or being an uninvited guest at their dinner table, is in for a problem. Campgrounds really need to start laying down some serious fines IMO, to try and deter messy campers, with no exceptions. What did the guy last week who luckily was able to kill the bear with a log get…$75?? Not much of a deterrent..I’d say at least $500 for first offense. It’s not only that they put themselves in danger but they create potential for bears to be dangerous toward the next group of campers, or the ones after etc. They need to realize that their sloppiness can directly contribute to the death of one or more persons from a brutal bear mauling in the future. Adults should also have their kids sleep near the center of the tent, and possibly use a string of electric fencing around it if they are on an extended stay in bear country.

  41. avatar Linda Hunter says:

    John99 I agree with you on the garbage issue. I have often thought that grizzly bear repopulation of the lower 48 states would be the only way to get people to clean up. . in places where there are grizzly/brown bears people clean up due to fear of death. In the lower 48 people do not understand that a black bear, or a racoon for that matter, has the potential to violently “pushy” when the food is withheld that they have had before. But on the issue of habituated, there is a distinction between habituated bears and those who are used to seeing humans regularly such as cohabitated bears of some of the bear viewing places. .those bears are safer to be around according to a study I read this year. Basically, bears communicate very predictably with body language and it is a foreign language to most of us. . a bear who gets food in a camp ground learns to intimidate people and pushes it farther each time. someone who got freaked out by a pushy bear and gave it food to have time to get away is setting both the next human and the bear up to die. Unfortunately, the rangers and/or whoever is managing the area never hear about these incidents because they are embarrassing and then there is a bear out there who learned just how easy it is to scare these human animals. A bear might get away with this behavior for a long time before the authorities become aware of it. There doesn’t seem any way to train the public how to act around wild animals, so maybe we should consider an electric fence for all public campgrounds. . just a thought.

  42. avatar Gena says:

    john99 I agree totally with your comments. But if there really was beef jerky or some other reason that is known to the family or Fish & Game, then I really wish they would share this information with the public. I would bet that this particular bear did not get to be a healthy 300 lbs without consuming left over food and garbage from humans.

    I went 4-wheeling this past Saturday up American Fork Canyon. Even though I did not drive right up and read everything that was posted, I did not visually see any notice or posts regarding this being bear country. I thought for sure there would have been some highly visable signs up in this area where this attack took place. I did not see one. (And like I said above, I did not get out and go right up to the things that were posted.) But normally it is easy to see a sign that is warning about bears because there might be a picture of a bear or large lettering that says “YOU ARE IN BEAR COUNTRY”. But what I did see is disignated and undisignated campgrounds full of garbage and food sitting on tables and coolers left laying around. At one point we found a 3 year old boy wondering around with no shoes or shirt and he was by himself. I was flabbergasted over what I saw. The public needs to change our habits or another person could be harmed or killed. And another bear could be killed because it was simply doing what a bear does.

    I love bears. I love all wildlife. I love people. Everything living plays a part in the success of our enviroment and our lives. Some people say “kill the predators”; they think that would solve everything. I can’t imagine what would be the repercussions of losing these amazing animals in our world. Look at what is going on with the honey bees and how it effects us.

  43. avatar john99 says:

    Yea Gena thats a scary scenario you just gave. Seems like people would learn especially just after a fatal attack. Theyve gotta get it into their heads that even if it isnt “bear country” meaning there is a dense population of bears in the area, bears have one of the best senses of smell of any animal, and the garbage can attract them even from miles away. And thats where the problems start. I feel horrible for the little boy who died and his family, but we’ve gotta understand that bears arent human and have certain behavioral patterns , especially when it comes to food, that we cant let them get our food or associate us with dinner time. Most of their lives revolve around eating, finding their next meal, etc, which can be quite difficult for them at times, and a messy campground can be heaven to them, and theyll return over and over, and become more aggressive and bold. It is a shame when these incidents happen because a person is injured or killed, the bear is killed, and it just strenghthens the public beliefs that bears are vicious beasts which they really arent. I think most people’s impression of a bear is a terrible beast, stalking them, waiting to pounce on them for their next meal.

  44. avatar Linda Hunter says:

    Wow Gena that is shocking to read that the garbage and food is still out and a three year old wandering around . . . it is easy to engage the national news when there is a death but why dosen’t it change people’s behavior? I must confess I just don’t understand.

  45. avatar dave smith says:

    Space providing, put gear against the outside edge of your tent, adults in the middle, kids in the center. When hiking, put adults at the front and rear of the line, sandwich kids in the middle. If a bear in a campground injures/kills your child, don’t sue the people who brought a bear into camp by leaving out food and garbage, sue the state/federal government–deeper pockets.

  46. avatar hoogie says:

    Federal, state and local agencies that manage lands that have bear populations, and particularly the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee (IGBC) (responsible for the introduction of the Grizzly Bear into the lower 48 since 1988) should promote a program similar to the Wildland Fire Prevention Programs. Because of our ever increasing “urban/fire interface”, many government land management agencies have hired fire prevention positions and implemented fire prevention educational programs… a response to recent years of catastrophic fires and invasion of housing into more “non-urban areas”. There seems to be a need for a similar prevention program stategy for the human/bear interface as well… a “bear country education program” for forest users. Perhaps the IGBC needs to address this a little better? Maybe a lot better. Linda Hunter’s thoughts on modifying people’s behavior towards bears by introducing the grizzly has got to be accompanied by an effort on the IGBC’s agenda to help educate forest users/campers, etc. Without this effort, we are going to continue to create a lot of bad bears that will hurt a lot of people. I’m getting to the point where I am afraid to camp in a designated campground in bear country… because I do not know the history of bear “behavior modification” by other campers in that area. That is my greatest fear.. that is why the electric fence is a good idea. “I wish for the old days when it was just me and the bears”.

    The history of “bear behavior modification” by past campers in an area is one reason I hate, and will not use, Yellowstone Park’s designated backcountry campsites. That doesn’t mean I violate their policy, I just don’t camp in the Park’s backcountry. Webmaster.

  47. avatar SAP says:

    hoogie:

    The IGBC (which was founded in 1983, and is responsible for grizzly recovery, not introduction) and its member agencies have been doing quite a bit of education. For example, some Forest Service districts have hired bear education specialists who spend a lot of time afield, talking to forest users about grizzlies and how to avoid conflicts.

    And the Madison Ranger District of the Beaverhead-Deer Lodge National Forest has been enforcing food storage regulations since 2005, even in areas where there are few or no grizzlies. District staff there patrol the roads and ride the trails during hunting season, especially, to inform folks about bears and avoiding conflicts.

    I’m not one to be a cheerleader for the IGBC, as they have caused me plenty of heartburn over the years, but I think they (and non-governmental partners) are taking the education/information stuff pretty seriously.

    The challenge now is to keep the current efforts growing, to expand and improve them, and to get good programs and FOOD STORAGE REGULATIONS in place wherever black bears live, regardless of whether there are grizzlies there, too. Requiring proper bear-resistant storage is the only way to go — it can’t be voluntary, and non-compliance has to be discouraged with penalties.

  48. avatar Truth not told says:

    SAP
    Out of all the comments on this blog, you are asking the most intelligent questions…Keep going. I have some questions for you to ponder. (you never know, I may already have the answers!) The one disadvantage you have is it sounds like you have never visited American Fork Canyon, so I will tell you some things first about it.

    It is a very busy canyon. Many, many campgrounds. Has a national monument, Timpanogos cave. Many fishing lakes. Even has some cabin assosiations. One aspect of this canyon that I have heard no one talk about is Mutual Dell campground. Mutual dell is a church owned campground for youth camps. It has pavillions, campsites, a lodge and different activity stuff. Last time I was up A.F. canyon I looked at Mutual Dell in relation to where the bear attacked. That bear walked through Mutual Dell to get to where he killed. ( Mutual Dell had 17 tents set up the weekend after the killing)
    One other thing the people were attached by this same bear at 5:30am the same day as it killed the boy. These people shot at this bear with a 9mm hand gun.

    Okay, now some questions. How does a full grown, 300 lb. bear go unnoticed in a area like this? DWR says no reports of sightings, incidents, damage, nothing?

    I believe it there have only been 36 people killed by black bears in North America. (if it is not 36 it is close to that) So DWR is going to tell the public that this full grown bear, as DWR put it “come out of the high country” and loose its fear of people and guns??? 17 hours before it killed the boy he was being shot at with a 9mm?

    I dont think you are from Utah so you might not know that a 300 lb. spring bear is extremely rare in Utah. I have never heard of one here. This bear qualifys as a trophy bear in Alaska. Do you find anything unusual about this? Ponder this, this bear is 300lbs. now, this fall it will be over 400lbs!

    I spoke with Jake, the guy who was attacked at 5:30 am on fathers day. He told me when the bear was being shot at with the gun it walked away. I made him repeat that, “walked away”. The bear walked about 30′ away and sat down and just stared at them.

    You seem pretty knowledgable about bears, with what I have told you I want to see if you can start putting all the pieces together.
    by the way, why would I say I know this bear walked through Mutual Dell to get to that camp site? That bear could have entered that camp site from any direction??

  49. avatar SAP says:

    Dear TNT:

    Thanks for your insights. You’re right, I live in Montana and have driven through American Fork Canyon a total of ONE time. So I don’t have much perspective on it.

    Three hundred pounds is a whopper black bear for up here, too, usually. A lot of female black bears here appear to be roughly the same overall dimensions of a big Labrador retriever — except wider and heavier.

    From what you describe, the bear sounds like it was definitely habituated (e.g., very little response to gunshots), and most likely food conditioned.

    Reading between the lines of your post, I get the impression that maybe there’s some speculation that this bear was released in the American Fork by parties unknown. Big bear (therefore, well-fed), totally unafraid of people, no other reports of sightings or encounters or damage . . . would seem like the bear materialized out of thin air!

    Coulda happened. I watched the movie Borat the other night — they were somehow able to acquire a captive Ursus americanus for that movie (although the implication in the movie is that Azamat ate the bear!). Captive bears exist, they may get out once in awhile, they may be “freed” by well-meaning idiots now and again, too.

    Near as I can tell, no new information has been released yet. There is the chance that this bear was a re-located problem bear, but Utah DWR has not said anything about that yet.

    Here in Montana, “problem” black bears get a green ear tag (in part to keep people from eating them too soon after they’ve been chemically immobilized). With all the people on scene with this case, I can’t imagine a successful “cover-up” if the bear was visibly marked.

  50. avatar Truth not told says:

    Sap,

    Heres the deal. I have four years of info. on this bear and pictures of it. I would like to email you some info. for your opinion and I can send you a picture of the killer bear. Call me at 801- 362-4850,so I can get you email. Name is Joe

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‎"At some point we must draw a line across the ground of our home and our being, drive a spear into the land and say to the bulldozers, earthmovers, government and corporations, “thus far and no further.” If we do not, we shall later feel, instead of pride, the regret of Thoreau, that good but overly-bookish man, who wrote, near the end of his life, “If I repent of anything it is likely to be my good behaviour."

~ Edward Abbey

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