Bear sightings in Hobble Creek Canyon prompt warnings and campground closures

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SPRINGVILLE — A bear scare in Hobble Creek Canyon Sunday night prompted authorities to post warnings and shut down a campground.

There's trouble in bear country and the trouble is that people live there too, on the outskirts of Springville. "We're in their territory," said long-time canyon resident Carole Oldroyd. "They live here; we encroached."

A small bear, or perhaps two or three different ones, have been making regular house-calls. Cabin owners have been on edge the past few days.

"There's a bit of, you know, anxiety about the whole thing," said Paul Houtz, who was visiting a family cabin when it was visited twice by a bear. "It was kind of awesome though, in an awesome way," Houtz said.

There's a bit of, you know, anxiety about the whole thing. It was kind of awesome though, in an awesome way.

–Paul Houtz

Over Memorial Day weekend, Houtz and other family members were outside their cabin both times when the bear approached. "At first when I saw it I thought it was a dog," Houtz said, "a mangy looking dog. And I did a double take, like, whoa! That's a bear."

Family members took refuge in the cabin and watched in amazement as the bear examined a cooking grill on an outside deck.

"We're looking out the windows watching," Houtz said. "And he came right up face-to-face, put his paws up on the woodpile, put his nose up on the windows. We were looking face-to-face right at the bear."

Such encounters have been happening a bit too often and bit too close for comfort for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. After at least two more bear visits this weekend, wildlife officials posted warning signs in the area near the Hobble Creek Golf Course. They also advised Springville officials to close city-owned Kelly's Grove campground. Campers and picnickers began leaving the area when a city official closed the gates after the dinner hour on Sunday evening.

At the same time, wildlife officers placed a bear-trap behind one of the cabins. They tried the same tactic in the same spot without success early last week. "We've already tried once and we'll try it again for another week and see what we can get," said Scott Root of the Division of Wildlife Resources. The agency also called in a houndsman who uses dogs to track down problem bears.

If you're out camping, you have to assume the danger is there and be prepared.

–Cassie Zonts

Residents of the area insist that at least two bears with different coloration have been visiting the cabins. Photos and videos taken by residents show the bears are small in stature, and "they're very cute," according to several people who have seen them. Wildlife biologists who have examined the pictures believe they show a yearling bear, just over a year old.

Even small bears can be dangerous, according to experts, especially if they become habituated to finding food and garbage in areas used by humans. So far, the visiting bear or bears have not displayed any aggressive behavior. Officials say their moves on Sunday were "out of an abundance of caution" and not because of any strong worry about a violent attack.

After a total of four bear visits at cabins close to hers, Oldroyd said "If I had kids I'd be really nervous. Yeah, it's a little nerve wracking."

At the nearby campground, no one officially warned campers until after the fourth sighting. Most did not seem perturbed by the lack of official alerts. "If you're out camping, you have to assume the danger is there and be prepared," said camper Megan Reisner of Orem. Cassie Zonts of Pleasant Grove also said campers have a responsibility to keep a clean camp. "You should assume that there are animals around and act accordingly," Reisner said.

In theory, this should be a year of minimal bear troubles. The unusually wet conditions have caused an explosion of growth. Experts say there is plenty of nutritious natural food for bears so they should be less likely to go after human food and garbage.


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John Hollenhorst


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