ST. GEORGE — After being illegally snared, a black bear was set free last week. Law officials are now asking the public for any information that could help them identify the person or people involved with this incident.
Josh Carver, conservation officer for the Utah Department of Wildlife Resources, told St. George News that on Sept. 3 at approximately 6:30 p.m., the DWR received a report of a trapped bear in an area known as Grass Point or Upper Basin on Cedar Mountain. Someone had driven by and seen the trapped bear and called it in. This area is mostly surrounded by private property, but the road is public.
“It was actually just right off the road on a fence line,” he said. “Someone had put a snare up right on the fence line.”
Carver called the Iron County Sheriff’s Office and asked if a few deputies could respond to the area where the bear was trapped to make sure that if someone was there and intending to kill the bear or do something else illegal that the perpetrator couldn’t get away before Carver got there.
“But, ironically, I beat them to it because I know the area a little better than they do,” he said with a laugh.
The black bear, an approximately 200-pound boar, is probably between 3 and 4 years of age, Carver said. Black bears are the only species in Utah and they come in many colors. This bear was a cinnamon-colored bear.
“He was a bit thin because he’s probably roaming quite a bit looking for food right now. (There’s) not a lot of food — mountain’s pretty dry — so bears tend to roam quite big distances looking for food. He was big though,” Carver said. “His paws were good sized and so was his skull.”
The bear was trapped around its neck by a snare.
“The bear had probably tried to go underneath the fence and got the snare wrapped around its neck, and it was getting tighter and tighter,” Carver said, adding that the bear must have stood still and relaxed, which is why the snare didn’t tighten up all the way.
In seeing the bear, Carver was able to make a quick decision that he could be released. After calling up the biologists to bring a tranquilizer gun, they waited about an hour.
During this time, he said the bear was quite calm, almost as if the bear knew they were there to help him.
“He was quite docile. He allowed us to tranquilize him. I mean, we got within 4 feet of him, and he didn’t have to be that docile — a lot of bears aren’t. I think he was ready to be released like, ‘Hey guys get me out of this thing.'”
After tranquilizing the bear twice to make sure it was unconscious, they were able to cut the snare off. Carver assessed the snare and found it to be illegal. One of the laws the DWR regulates has to do with trapping, and there are very specific laws when it comes to snaring.
“We make sure it has a trap number on it. We make sure it has a breakaway so that big animals, such as bears, deer — nontarget animals — can be released,” he said. “In this case, the snare did not have any trap numbers on it, and it didn’t have a breakaway.”
Without the trap number or a breakaway, the snare was illegally set up.
While the bear was unconscious, they took samples and put a tag in his ear with a division number on it. The bear was then given a type of antivenom drug used to revive the animal and stop the other drugs’ effects.
“That guy woke up ready to go,” he said.
In the case of releasing bears, Carver said there tend to be some misconceptions, such as the idea that bears are transported and released on different mountains. But this isn’t true.
“We actually released it 10 feet from where he was caught. We kind of like to keep local bears in local spots. He, of course, is back out there in those hills,” he said. “The good thing about this is he’s not hurt. He’s not injured.”
In the worst-case scenario, the snare could have killed the bear.
“The snare itself could’ve tightened up and killed him, and he would have died, no doubt about it, had we not tranquilized and released him. There’s no way he could have survived it.”
Carver said there is currently an active bear hunt. One hunter said he saw the bear in his camera and was disappointed to see it trapped like that.
“Really, our sportsmen and women in Utah are awesome. They call and they report information. They report crimes. They report poaching. And without them, we don’t get near as much done,” he said. “Unfortunately, there’s always a few knuckleheads who ruin it for the rest of us.”
Carver has dealt with many bears throughout his career for a variety of reasons. In some years, when food is scarce, bears tend to become more willing to put themselves in contact with people.
“And so we’ll deal with problematic bears that just get too close to people. We’ll transplant them if they’re a problem.”
In other cases, bears will have to be put down depending on how they rate in relation to fear of people and other factors.
“If we have a bear who is just hungry and needs food, we might give him a meal and take him to a new location, so he’s not in contact with people,” Carver said.
The difference about this situation is that someone illegally caught this bear, which is something Carver said he doesn’t see often. Contrary to what some think, there’s not a lot of foothold traps that could hold a bear.
“But a snare could, and a snare that is illegally done or a snare that’s not properly set or doesn’t have the proper information is definitely something we’re interested in finding out more about,” he said. “… A lot of people were pretty upset when they saw that. They don’t like to see a bear in that type of situation. They like to see nature, and they like to see honest hunters, and that’s just not an honest way of doing business.”
For this type of case, had the bear died, a person would face a third-degree felony charge. But since this bear survived, the suspect would face several class B misdemeanors, Carver said.
“The nice thing is, the bear was released and he’ll add back to the population of bears up on the mountain,” he said.
Anyone with information about snaring on that side of the mountain should call the Utah Turn In Poacher number at 1-800-662-3337.
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