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Biologists make amazing find when tracking bear population

By Sam Penrod | Posted - Apr. 1, 2011 at 5:54 p.m.


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WASATCH COUNTY -- Wildlife biologists spent Friday tracking down a bear wearing a radio collar as part of a study of Utah's bear population.

Biologists with the Division of Wildlife Resources tracked the hibernating female bear to a very steep mountainside near Daniel's Summit in Wasatch County.

"Today we saw something I have never seen in 20 years, and that is four cubs," said Scott Root with the DWR. "We're really excited."

The biologists make this trek every year to study the health of bears while they are hibernating and to measure the bear population in Utah.

"Seriously, this is a very important work, to be able to see if the bear population is doing well -- if they are healthy and they've got good weight," Root said.

When they found the bear's den, they sedated the mama bear as a precaution so wildlife biologists could examine her and her young cubs. Holding a cub, even for just a few moments, was amazing for everyone who made the trip.

They are very cuddly, but their claws are razor sharp.

"Kind of hard to believe, as busy as we get and nature just goes on up here, isn't it?" said Byron Healey, who helped our KSL crew carry TV gear to the den.

Celia Bunnell, whose husband is a DWR biologist, added, "This is a great experience -- once in a lifetime. Unless you are the biologist's wife, then you get to do it a few more times, but it's fun."

While the cubs had everyone's attention, the focus for biologists was their study of Utah's bear population. The mother bear's radio collar was refitted and a new battery was installed. She got a quick physical exam from a DWR biologist, who found she was in great health.

"The female bear is about 250 pounds. She'll have her work cut out for her though with four cubs, but with a little luck, maybe all of them will survive," Root said.

After the checkup, the bear and her cubs were gently placed back into the den to resume their long winter's nap. Biologists expect the bears will wander out of their den in the next few weeks and start enjoying spring weather.

Email: spenrod@ksl.com

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