Wildlife officials urge residents to avoid feeding bears

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SPRINGVILLE -- Wildlife officials have been unable to trap a young bear that's been making house-calls at cabins in Hobble Creek Canyon.

Meanwhile, they're denying knowledge of any deliberate attempt by cabin owners to lure bears closer using tasty food as bait.

Since a series of close-up bear encounters began on Memorial Day weekend, rumors have been flying that someone is feeding the bears.

I haven't heard of any homeowners down by the homes trying to bait bears in.

–Scott Root

"I haven't heard of any homeowners down by the homes trying to bait bears in," said Scott Root of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. However, he did confirm that a hunter has been using legal bear-baiting techniques in recent weeks about a mile away from the cabins.

About two weeks ago, the hunter shot and killed an adult bear that came to his bear-baiting station. A friend of the hunter said he believes that bear was the mother of yearling bears, born last year, that are now roaming the lower slopes of Hobble Creek Canyon.

Those who have observed the young bear, or bears, visiting the cabins describe them as very cute and non-aggressive. But experts say they pose a potential threat because no one can predict when they might suddenly turn aggressive.


Sunday night, Springville officials closed a nearby campground and wildlife officers installed a bear trap behind one of the cabins. They're considering installing a second trap in hopes of capturing and relocating the young bears before they cause any trouble.

It is not a mystery what attracts bears. It's food, beverages, garbage and anything else with an aroma. "The bottom line when you're camping, or just in bear country in general," Root said, "is you keep anything that has odor as far away from bears as you can."

Experts recommend keeping things with odors, even toiletries, sealed up and out of reach. For cabin owners, they suggest not putting trash in outside containers until the day a trash-pickup is expected. "Bear-proof containers are a little pricey," Root said. "But we would encourage that if you're in bear country."

If someone actually lures a bear on purpose with tasty treats, they might be considered foolish but they would likely not be doing anything illegal. "It is not technically against the law to feed bears," Root said. "It is not wise, obviously. And it can cause a lot of problems."

Carole Oldroyd is one of several residents of Hobble Creek Canyon who have heard rumors that someone has been feeding or baiting bears. "I really don't think they should be," Oldroyd said. "But then again, I feed the (wild) turkeys. So, what's fair? I don't know. I personally don't think they should be feeding the bears because they're dangerous."

It can actually be dangerous for the bear if it becomes habituated to human sources of food. The animals often become more aggressive in such situations. To protect humans, wildlife officials don't hesitate to kill bears that show signs of aggression. When dealing with less aggressive bears, wildlife officers typically capture them and relocate them to safer areas.

E-mail: hollenhorst@ksl.com


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