Utah is home to a diverse array of wildlife, and one of the most majestic creatures that roam its landscape is the black bear. As the only species of bear in Utah, black bears play a vital role in the state's ecosystem. However, as summer approaches and outdoor recreational activities increase, it's essential for Utahns to be mindful of how to prevent conflicts with bears and what to do if they encounter one.

Black bears typically emerge from hibernation in March or April, depending on snow conditions. During the spring, they primarily feed on plants and insects, but they possess an incredible sense of smell and will readily consume human food if it's easily accessible. This behavior often leads to conflicts between bears and humans, especially in camping areas situated within the bears' natural habitat.

Bear safety tips

According to Darren DeBloois, the Game Mammals Coordinator at the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR), black bears generally avoid humans but can become aggressive when they find food. To mitigate conflicts and ensure safety for both people and bears, here are some simple tips to follow while recreating in bear country:

  1. Bear-Proof Your Food and Supplies: Store food and scented items in secure locations inaccessible to bears, such as locked trailers or car trunks. Keeping food out of reach reduces the likelihood of attracting bears to camping areas.
  2. Keep Your Cooking Area Clean: After meals, clean cooking utensils and dispose of oil or grease properly to prevent odors that might attract bears. A tidy campsite minimizes the chance of attracting unwanted wildlife.
  3. Maintain a Clean Campsite: Dispose of food scraps and trash in sealed bags and take them home with you. A dirty campsite can attract bears long after campers have departed, creating potential dangers for future visitors.
  4. Never Feed a Bear: Refrain from feeding bears, as it can lead to habituation and aggressive behavior. Wildlife professionals emphasize the importance of keeping bears wild to ensure their safety and the safety of the public.
  5. Bear-Proof Your Outdoor Garbage Cans: Secure trash in bear-proof containers or store garbage cans in enclosed spaces like garages. Regular cleaning helps eliminate odors that attract bears to residential areas.
  6. Remove Attractive Items from Your Yard: Take precautions to secure or remove items like birdfeeders, fruit trees, compost piles, and pet food that may attract bears to residential areas.

In the event of a bear encounter, it's crucial to remain calm and know how to react appropriately:

  • Stand Your Ground: Stay calm and give the bear an opportunity to leave. Prepare to use bear spray or other deterrents if necessary.
  • Do Not Run or Climb: Running or climbing trees can provoke bears, as they are skilled climbers and runners.
  • Understand Bear Behavior: Learn to interpret bear vocalizations and body language to gauge their intentions.
  • Fight Back if Attacked: In rare cases of aggression, fight back using any available means to defend yourself.

Additionally, it's important to report bear sightings to the DWR under certain circumstances, such as when bears exhibit aggressive behavior or venture into populated areas.


By following these guidelines and staying informed about bear safety practices, Utahns can enjoy outdoor activities while minimizing potential conflicts with bears. For more information and resources on staying safe around black bears, visit the Wild Aware Utah website or watch educational videos on the DWR YouTube channel. Together, we can coexist responsibly with these magnificent creatures and preserve Utah's natural beauty for generations to come.

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