It’s well known that hot, dry weather increases the danger of wildfires, but it also creates another potential hazard for campers and other people spending time in the mountains.
The dry weather Utah is experiencing so far this summer could increase the chance of human encounters with black bears in the state.
John Shivik, mammals coordinator for the Division of Wildlife Resources, said the dry conditions have reduced the amount of natural vegetation that’s available to the bears. Not having enough natural vegetation forces the bears to wander more in search of food.
“The wandering they’re doing increases the chance that a bear will come into your camp site or cabin area this summer,” Shivik said.
Fortunately, Shivik said several things can be done to lessen the chance of encountering a bear while camping. First — and perhaps most important — is storing food and scented items, such as deodorants and toothpaste, in areas where bears can’t get them, such as a trailer or car trunk.
Keep cooking grills clean, and clean anything used to prepare, eat or clean up food. Bears have an extremely keen sense of smell, and can detect food and other scented items from as far as a mile away.
Keep campsites and cabin areas clean, and don’t toss food scraps or other trash around. And of course, never feed a bear. The bears that become a danger to humans are those that learn associate people with food sources.
More tips on how to stay safe in bear country, including what to do if you encounter a bear while hiking, are available at http://go.usa.gov/WDW. Wild Aware Utah also provides information about bear safety. You can access the information at www.wildawareutah.org.
“Even if it isn’t a dry year,” Shivik said, “you should always follow these tips. Bears are always searching for food.”
Shivik said if you follow these rules, you’ll not only help yourself — you’ll help others, too. He said 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.