Friday, June 7, Milton residents had an unexpected guest: an American black bear.
Contrary to what their name infers, the American black bear is not always black. Coat colors can vary from black to brown, or even cinnamon or blond, but they always have a brownish muzzle.
Phil Douglas from the Division of Wildlife Services reminds residents that while they might be alarmed at the appearance of a bear in their yard, the bears are generally just passing through.
Milton resident Tami Crowther recounted the event saying that the bear first visited the Lewis residence before making its way to say hello to the Crowthers.
At about 8:15 p.m., Crowther’s daughter was lying on their trampoline. The family dog started barking, which didn’t really alarm her as she thought the bark might be for a passerby.
As the barking continued, she had a strange feeling and turned to see a black bear not more than 50 feet away from where she was lying.
The bear then climbed the fence and headed toward the property where the Crowther family keeps their animals. The horses went into a panic and were spooked for quite a time, but Crowther said, “I was just happy that they were all unharmed. They were pretty scared.”
The bear continued its journey through a few more backyards and then right back up the mountain.
Conservation officer Jonathon Moser was on the scene searching for the bear following the sighting but has not located the animal. Moser explained, “Bears can be kind of like teenagers. They fight with mom and dad and decide to leave home.” When this happens, the bears often pass through areas where you normally wouldn’t see them.
Moser reminds the public that some of us only live two or three miles outside of the natural habitat for these bears. “You don’t have to go far to get to bear country around here,” commented Moser.
Residents should follow simple guidelines for their own safety and for the safety of the bears. Keep your homes free of easy bear food. Keep garbage lids closed, bring pet food in at night, and simply keep things clean. If a bear obtains food from a home even once, it may become aggressive in future attempts. This almost guarantees the bear will have to be destroyed.
Bears have a healthy fear of man. Make yourself as big as possible. Raise your arms, clap your hands, sing a song, and make them aware of your presence. Once they are aware of you, they will often run away. The last thing you want to do is startle a bear. If you do startle the bear, play dead. Interlock your fingers around the back of your neck, bring your elbows in and curl into a ball. All the bear wants to do is neutralize the threat.
Bears are great climbers and can run quite fast. You won’t likely outrun or out-climb a bear. If you are attacked and cannot get away, fight back, kick, scream and yell. Be aggressive.
Remember also that harassing wildlife is illegal. Make sure you call a wildlife professional to handle the situation for you. Moser said he is happy to come to your home and “harass” the animal for you to make sure the bear doesn’t visit again. Time is of the essence. If wildlife officials are contacted immediately, they are much more successful locating the animal.
You can contact Moser directly at (801) 710-8517 or you can call dispatch. You can also call *3337 on any cell phone.
For more detailed information about living with bears, please visit www.wildlife.utah.gov.