Bear euthanized after biting head of rafter in Desolation Canyon

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SALT LAKE CITY—On a day when most of the country was learning of a Colorado teen waking to the crunching sound of a bear biting his head, details surfaced Monday of a similar attack that unfolded in the lower Desolation Canyon area of central Utah.

Officials with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources confirmed the case took place the night of July 4, when a California man who had been rafting on the Green River awakened to a black bear biting at the back of his head.

The man and seven other rafters he was camping with were able to scare the bear away, according to Robin Cahoon, conservation outreach section chief for DWR.

Cahoon said the man suffered relatively minor injuries and drove himself to medical care.

“(Wildlife officers) were able to successfully capture and euthanize the animal,” Cahoon said.

Under DWR policy supplied by Cahoon, a bear is considered a threat to public safety “if it displays aggressive behavior toward humans, has little fear of humans, or has killed or attempted to kill domestic pets.”

Per the policy, “corrective action in these situations requires that the offending bear be destroyed.”

“It had exhibited extreme aggression toward humans,” Cahoon said.

A pamphlet circulated by DWR instructs those who encounter a bear to stand their ground — staying calm and allowing the bear a chance to leave while preparing bear spray or some other kind of deterrent.

If a bear attacks, the pamphlet instructs people to always fight back using bear spray or any kind of improvised weapon possible, including rocks, sticks and backpacks.

If someone has a gun, the pamphlet says that person is advised to shoot to kill, aiming for the center of the bear, firing until it is dead, and afterward notifying DWR officers.

In respect to the recent cases, Cahoon cautioned those headed to the outdoors to be alert, cautious and to keep campgrounds clean.

“Store their food in a separate place, keep trash and any sort of scented items away from the camp site,” said Cahoon, underscoring that it was particularly important to keep those things away from sleeping areas.


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Andrew Adams


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