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Bear sighting forces campers to relocate

By Jed Boal  |  Posted Jul 21st, 2011 @ 10:32pm

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SPANISH FORK -- A curious bear caused quite a commotion at Payson Lake Campground Thursday evening.

Young Audrey Blair was camping with her family, riding bikes with her cousin, when she spotted a bear. Asked if she was scared, she said, "Very! We pedaled the other way as fast as we could."

Many campers got a long look at the bear.

Early Thursday, campers were told to be cautious, but later in the evening, they were told to get out of the campground.

Black bears typically just want to get away from us.

–Mark Hadley

Wildlife officers think two black bears were roaming around the campground and teams tried to scare them out of the area. Officials trapped a bear once, and tried to chase it away with loud noises and bean bag guns, but the bear headed up a tree and wouldn't come down.

Another bear was spotted near the lake, prompting wildlife officials to ask campers to leave the campground.

This time of year, young bears wander around looking for their own territory. Deep snow at higher elevations have forced many of them to lower areas than normal, where campers rarely see them.

"It was pretty big, from what I could tell," said Audrey. "I looked over and I saw a bear running out of the bushes, and it ran across the road right into the other trees."

Most campers weren't too worried at the time and thought the noise and activity would scare it away.

"Standing up, it looked taller than an average-sized man," said camper JoAnne Soderborg.

Wildlife officials hope to simply scare the bear or bears away.

"Black bears typically just want to get away from us," said Mark Hadley of the Division of Wildlife Resources.

Officials have warned campers to not leave food out, to keep campsites clean and when hiking, make a lot of noise. They also said that if a bear is spotted, remain calm and to not run away.

Ways to decrease bear sightings:
  • Don't leave food out
  • Keep you campsite clean
  • When hiking, make a lot of noise
  • If you see a bear nearby, remain calm and don't run

"You can't outrun one," Hadley said. "If it begins to chase you and you go up a tree, a bear can climb a tree a lot faster than you can."

If a bear does charge after you, it is possible bear spray may be the last line of defense. Bear spray emits a cloud of pepper spray that last for nine seconds.

"I think the product is awesome," said Kirkham's Outdoor Products Manager Brad Shelburne. "It will definitely deter a bear from attacking. Just a little bit of that pepper has a big effect on your eyes and lungs."

Shelburne said Kirkham's has sold a lot of bear spray over the last four years. He said sales spiked after there was a fatal bear attack four years ago in American Fork Canyon.

"Use it properly," Shelburne cautioned. "Use it in a safe way and you're going to be safe as well."

Wildlife officials said they are working to remove the bear from the campground area, but would likely have to wait until Friday to retrieve the bear. Nearly 80-85 campers were affected by the bear sighting.

Payson Lakes Campground will remain closed until rangers are confident that the two bears are no longer in the area and no longer a threat to the public. In the meantime, they warn those planning to camp elsewhere this weekend to not leave food out.

If you have questions you can call the Spanish Fork Ranger District:

Spanish Fork Ranger District
44 W. 400 North
Spanish Fork, UT 84660



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