Bear blamed for boy’s death is killed
AMERICAN FORK, Utah (AP) ” A black bear was killed by wildlife officers Monday and airlifted out of the Wasatch Mountains for tests to confirm that it was responsible for the fatal mauling of an 11-year-old boy who was ripped from a tent during a Father’s Day outing.
The boy’s death was described as Utah’s first fatal attack on a human by a black bear. It follows reports of several bear sightings during spring and occurred just hours after other people in the same primitive campsite likely encountered the same animal.
“Truly a tragic event. … Events of this type are extremely rare in Utah,” said Jim Karpowitz, director of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.
The boy, his mother, stepfather and a 6-year-old brother were sleeping in a large tent Sunday night in American Fork Canyon, about 30 miles southeast of Salt Lake City.
The stepfather heard a scream, and the boy and his sleeping bag were gone.
The boy’s body was found about 400 yards away, said Lt. Dennis Harris of the Utah County sheriff’s office. His identity was not released.
Authorities said the bear, a “jet black” male possibly 300 pounds, probably was the same one that was snooping around a different tent in the same area before dawn Sunday.
“The bear ran away. We responded quickly and sent hounds up,” said Scott Root, conservation outreach manager at the Utah wildlife agency. “The chase was unsuccessful. It was very windy, very hot.”
After the boy’s death, state and federal wildlife officers returned Monday with 26 dogs. They tracked the bear’s scent and shot him. He wandered around wounded until officers fatally shot him about 11:30 a.m. MDT, said Lt. Scott White of the wildlife agency.
With elevations as high as 11,000 feet, American Fork Canyon in Utah County is a popular camping destination and home to Timpanogos Cave National Monument. It was not known what provoked the bear, though a bear can smell food for miles.
“When it’s hot and dry like this, bears are short of food,” Karpowitz said.
He said his agency was unaware of any other fatal attack by a black bear in Utah. The state is not home to grizzly bears.
In May, officials reported black bears in Provo Canyon and Park City. At Strawberry Reservoir, a bear ripped through a screen door at a cabin where residents had burned food and opened windows.
Officers killed the Strawberry Reservoir bear because it showed no fear when biologists tried to scare it away with firecrackers, the wildlife agency said.
In July 2006, a black bear bit the arm of a 14-year-old Boy Scout while he slept in a tent, also in Utah County. The female bear returned to the campground and was killed.
Black bears, which are found in 27 states, are “generally less aggressive than other bears and don’t prey on humans,” said Stewart Breck, a wildlife biologist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Fort Collins, Colo.
The typical human-bear conflicts involve bears breaking into homes or cars.
“But it’s not breaking into a tent and killing,” Breck said.
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