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MILLCREEK — A Utah hiker is warning others about bears in Millcreek Canyon after she encountered one on a hike Tuesday evening.
Alexis Croghan always hikes around trails in Millcreek Canyon with her dog. She said she had never encountered a black bear in the area before.
“I hike the Wasatch all the time, actually about once a week with my dog,” she said. “And this was definitely my first experience like that.”
Croghan had hiked Big Water Trail up to Dog Lake with a friend and the two were decided to head back to the parking lot via Little Water Trail, she said. About 1 mile up from the parking lot, a group of other hikers Croghan and her friend had seen at the lake earlier were heading back up the trail to warn them about a bear they had seen.
The group told Croghan and her friend they spotted a sow and her cub about 50 yards down the trail, she recalled.
The hikers told Croghan they fired a warning shot with a gun they had and then the bear charged them, she said. After that, they bolted back up the trail and ran into Croghan.
Since they thought the bear and cub had run off into the hills, and the group was close to the parking lot, they decided to travel together back down the trail to the parking lot, Croghan said.
After heading down the trail, the group encountered the bear again. For Croghan, it was her first time seeing the animal. She said the hikers fired another warning shot, and then she watched the bear stand up and growl at them.
The bear and cub were directly on the trail and about 40-50 feet away from the group, Croghan said. The group turned around and headed back up the trail and decided to take a longer way around to the parking lot.
Croghan said the experience taught her the importance of safety when hiking in bear country.
“I should’ve been more prepared myself,” she said, adding that she likely won’t go hiking again without bear spray.
The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources highly recommends hiking with bear spray and provides other tips to stay safe if one encounters a bear on its website.
Scott Root, conservation outreach manager with DWR, said that while the division didn’t receive reports of this particular incident, it doesn’t surprise him.
“There’s a lot of human usage up those trails in Millcreek but it’s still ... absolutely bear habitat,” he said.
He noted the area has vegetation loaded with berries and plenty of water — both ideal for bears.
“Yes, it is bear country,” he said. “But I think bears typically will kind of stay away from the main trails. But then again, wildlife is unpredictable so it’s always a possibility to have an encounter with a black bear.”
As the group walked away from the bears they made loud noises, something Root said is always beneficial during a bear encounter. Additionally, it helps to move your arms up and down to appear larger and more threatening, he said.
Most bears want to get away from people and protect their cubs, Root said. It’s rare that a bear will charge in these situations, he noted. Usually, black bears run away when confronted by people loudly, he said.
If a black bear does attack a person, Root said it’s crucial to fight back and hopefully it causes the bear to take off.
“With that being said, it’s extremely rare for black bear attacks,” he said.
If people do encounter an aggressive black bear, Root urged people to contact the DWR, who will respond immediately.
“We don’t want people to be afraid of going into the outdoors because of they’re afraid of bears,” he said. “If you’re prepared, you’ve got something like bear spray, you really shouldn’t have problems with black bears — as long as you don’t leave food around, that type of thing, you should be just fine in the outdoors.”
Contributing: Kira Hoffelmeyer, KSL Newsradio