Prevent unwanted black bear encounters, tips to stay safe

Black bear sits in the grass | Photo courtesy of Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — This Memorial Day weekend, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources provides tips for preventative measures to keep you and your family safe from bears.

A fun weekend can turn tragic in a moment if the proper preparations to deter bears from coming into the area where you’re camping are not exercised. Fortunately, by making sure to keep campsites or cabin areas clean and free of litter, as well as food contained where it is inaccessible to a bear, keeping bears at bay can be easy and your camping experience more enjoyable.

Black bears are the only bears that live in Utah. They are usually afraid of humans and in most cases will do anything they can to avoid contact, DWR Mammals Coordinator John Shivik said.

“That can change though,” Shivik said, “if a bear starts to associate your campsite or cabin area as a place where it can get food.”

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Camping in Bear Country | Video courtesy of the Utah DWR

One of the key steps to avoiding bear invasion is to cut down the smells that attract bears. Bears have an incredible sense of smell and have no problem eating the same kinds of food people eat. Specifically:

  • Store your food and scented items, such as deodorants and toothpaste, in areas where bears can’t get to them, such as inside a trailer or in the trunk of your car
  • Wash all cooking utensils, food preparation areas and keep the cooking grill clean, discard any items used to prepare or clean up food
  •  Keep your campsite or cabin area clean. Resist the urge to toss food scraps and other trash around
  •  Never feed a bear

“Because they hibernate for part of the year,” Shivik said, “bears have only eight months to eat 12 months worth of food.  Your trash is their treasure.”

By abiding by these rules you will not only help yourself, you’ll help others too, he said.

There is no guarantee that a bear will visit your campsite while you’re there; however, you can lure a bear to your campsite just by leaving food out, or the packaging it came in, where bears can smell it and come to the campsite after you leave, which presents a serious problem for people who camp in the area afterward.


  • Click here for more tips on how to stay safe in bear country, including what to do if you encounter a bear while hiking, are available
  • Wild Aware Utah also provides bear safety information which you can find here.

Click here to view the camping in bear country YouTube video.

Submitted by the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources

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Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2014, all rights reserved.




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