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Bear safety tips

As Memorial Day weekend nears, DWR provides tips to keep you safe

A fun weekend can turn tragic if you do things that lure bears into the area where you're camping.

Keeping your campsite clean and not leaving food out are two keys to staying safe in black bear country.

Keeping your campsite clean and not leaving food out are two keys to staying safe in black bear country.

Photo by Lynn Chamberlain

Fortunately, it's easy to keep bears away. Make sure you keep your campsite or cabin area clean and free of litter. And don't leave food where a bear can get to it.

John Shivik, mammals coordinator for the Division of Wildlife Resources, says black bears are the only bears that live in Utah. He says black bears are usually scared of people and will do anything they can to avoid us. "That can change, though," Shivik says, "if a bear starts to associate your campsite or cabin area as a place where it can get food."

Shivik says bears have an incredible sense of smell. And they have no problem eating the same kinds of food people eat.

Cut down the smells

The key to keeping bears out of your campsite or cabin area is cutting down on smells that might attract bears. Specifically, Shivik encourages you to:

  • Store your food and scented items, such as deodorants and tooth paste, in areas where bears can't get to them. Inside a trailer or in the trunk of your car are good choices.
  • Keep your cooking grill clean. And clean anything you used to prepare, eat or clean up food.
  • Keep your campsite or cabin area clean. Don't toss food scraps and other trash around.
  • Never feed a bear.

"Because they hibernate for part of the year," he says, "bears have only eight months to eat 12 months worth of food. Your trash is their treasure."

Bear safety tips

More tips on how to stay safe in bear country, including what to do if you encounter a bear while hiking, are available online.

Wild Aware Utah also provides bear safety information. WAU's information is available at www.wildawareutah.org.

A video — 'Camping in Bear Country' — is also available at the DWR YouTube channel.

You'll be helping others too

Shivik says if you follow these rules, you'll not only help yourself, you'll help others too.

He says a bear may not visit your campsite while you're there. But the food you leave out and the litter you leave behind could bring a bear to that same area after you leave. And that could create a serious problem for people who camp in the area after you.

"What you leave in a campsite, no matter how small, can be treasure for a bear and trouble for people," Shivik says.

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