Black bear euthanized after being fed for show
Vail, CO Colorado
SALT LAKE CITY ” State wildlife officials had to kill a young black bear in Uintah County after reports that a man was feeding it junk food so his kids and grandkids could watch.
The bear had lost its fear of people, raising concerns that it could become aggressive if it wasn’t fed.
With the bear euthanized, officials are now deciding whether to file charges against the man who was feeding it.
“It’s been frustrating because the last thing we want to do is kill wildlife, but at the same time when human safety is involved, human lives are the top priority,” said Lt. Torrey Christopherson of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources in Vernal.
He said state officials had heard reports about the fed bear in Whiterocks Canyon last year but weren’t able to confirm it until July. He said the man was luring the 2-year-old bear onto private property with doughnuts, syrup and dog food.
“The complaint was this person was feeding the bear so he could display it to his kids and grandkids,” he said.
Wildlife officials worried that the bear could pose a danger if it went to neighboring properties and didn’t receive any food.
“When a bear loses its fear of humans and equate food with humans, then our experience has been that we’re going to have problems,” he said.
The man, whose name wasn’t released, refused to allow state officials to come on to his property. Wildlife agents set up a culvert-shaped trap on a neighbor’s property and lured it inside in early August. It was later euthanized.
Christopherson said he’s working with Uintah County prosecutors to decide whether charges should be filed against the man who was baiting the bear.
The episode is another reminder about the importance of being careful in bear country.
Last summer an 11-year-old Utah County boy was attacked and killed while camping in American Fork Canyon. It was Utah’s first documented fatal black bear attack.
“That was a horrible situation,” he said. “We’re taking everything very seriously with bears.”
Overall, it’s been a quieter year for problem bears in Utah.
State officials say they’ve only had to euthanize three bears this year, compared with 12 at this time last year.
And the number of calls to wildlife officials about bears has dropped from 147 last year to 61 this year, according to Amy Canning at the DWR.
Part of that is because wetter conditions this year provided more natural foods for bears this year, leaving them less likely to look for snacks in areas where there are people. Wildlife officials have also stepped up their education campaign to reduce the amount of food and garbage left outside.