Welcome to Black Bear Country
The video below provides some great tips on hiking and camping in bear country in Utah.
Black bears are Utah’s largest predators. Thousands of them live in our forests and mountains—often in the same places we like to camp, hike and build our houses. This poses a safety concern for both humans and bears.
If a bear obtains food from a home or campsite—even once—it may become aggressive in future attempts. This almost guarantees the bear will have to be destroyed. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to protect both you and the bear.
Sloppy campers and hikers don’t just endanger themselves, but also future visitors. Bears have amazing memories; they will return to a site repeatedly if they ate there at some point in the past.
When in bear country, you should:
Bears search for food—wherever they can.
If a bear enters your yard, give it an obvious escape route—do not corner it. Black bears can quickly inflict thousands of dollars in property damage. You can reduce or eliminate visits from bears if you:
Dispose of trash carefully
Black bears usually avoid contact with people, but encounters in Utah’s woods and mountains are not uncommon.
Click here to download a flyer: Welcome to Bear Country (PDF)
Click here for a Living With Bears brochure from Utah’s Hogle Zoo (PDF)
Click here to Learn how to Identify Bear Sign, Identify damage and Conflict Prevention (PDF)
Black bears can have black, brown, reddish brown, cinnamon or white coats.
Black bears are currently the only bear found in Utah.
Click here for Bear Biology and Ecology from UDWR (PDF)
Bears have five toes. A black bear’s front paw claws are short but can be visible in the track. Tracks may be 5 inches to 7 inches long.
The scat varies based on what the bear is eating at a particular time of year. It may be full of insect parts, hair, bone or seeds and grasses.
Look for flipped rocks or shredded logs where a bear has been searching for grubs and insects. Bears will sometimes strip the bark off trees. Look for claw marks or clumps of hair on the bark of trees.
Photos: Stephanie Jochum-Natt
Photos: USGS and ICWDM &USDA WS
Black bears may cause damage to property in their search for food and shelter. Damage can range from trampling gardens, tearing up grass or compost piles, destroying beehives, foraging in garbage cans or dumpsters, tearing down birdfeeders, breaking into cabins or campsites and food caches.
Remove Attractants First:
Unsecured trash, birdfeeders, hummingbird feeders, unfenced fruit trees, gardens, compost piles or bee hives. Pet food and water bowls, unsupervised pets, (especially at night), barbecue grills, uncleaned utensils or dishes, unsecured food, coolers or camp boxes. Highly scented bath products, sunscreen, lotions and toothpaste. Bears have an incredible sense of smell. If they think they smell a food source they will investigate.
Bear “unwelcome mats” are wood planks with protruding screws or nails. Place under windows or in doorways. Install electric fencing around gardens, beehives, etc.
Black bears can be frightened away from backyards, orchards etc. by the use of motion sensor lights, strobe lights, loud music or sounds, scarecrows or dogs. The position of frightening devices and lights should be moved frequently.
Note: Some of these techniques may not be suitable for urban areas. Always check with local authorities to ensure that you are using a legal deterrent.
Electric fence around beehives: Scott E. Hygnstrom Extension Wildlife Damage Specialist School of Natural Resources University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Carry Bear spray when recreating and learn how to use it properly.
Click here for a Bear Spray User Guide form Center for Wildlife Information (PDF)
Click here for Bear Spray Poster download (PDF)
These can be built at home or purchased from numerous companies online.
These can be purchased at outdoor recreation stores or rented online. Bear-proof lockers are provided at some parks and campsites. Please use these lockers or dumpsters when provided.
Keep a clean, odor-free camp and picnic site. Set up the cooking and eating area and keep food, trash and scented toiletries 100 yards from the sleeping area.
Bear proof container at campsite: Center for Wildlife Information
Do not store food, or toiletries inside your tent.
Photos credit to Alberta Bear Smart , Government of Alberta and Parks Canada
If you see a bear in a residential area or you encounter an aggressive bear, please contact the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources immediately. If the encounter occurs after hours or on the weekend, please call your local police department or county sheriff’s office, who can contact a conservation officer to handle the situation.