Camper attacked by black bear

78-year-old victim flown to hospital; animal killed

Published: Saturday, Aug. 29 2009 12:00 a.m. MDT

A 78-year-old man was hospitalized Friday with injuries he received when he was attacked by a black bear in a remote area of eastern Utah.

The bear was shot and killed by another camper.

About 12:30 a.m., a river-rafting party of 13 people, including nine family members and four guides, were sleeping after finding a spot off the Green River near Rock Creek Ranch in Carbon County's Desolation Canyon to stop for the night, said Brad Crompton, Division of Wildlife Resources' southeastern region wildlife biologist. The family was awakened upon hearing the sound of a bear attacking a family member who had been sleeping on a cot, he said.

One of the victim's daughters jumped on the bear and hit it with her fists, according to a statement from the DWR. After another family member joined in the struggle the bear let go of the man at which point the bear was shot in the back by one of the victim's grandsons. The animal ran off and was found dead after sunrise.

The man's torso was punctured and his arms scratched, the DWR said. A medical helicopter flew the man to a hospital about 4 a.m., and an airplane returned later in the morning to fly out the rest of the family.

"He seemed to be doing very well," DWR spokesman Mark Hadley said of the latest update on the man's condition, which was last reported to be stable.

Several hours before the attack, between 6 and 6:30 p.m. Thursday, the bear first appeared in the camp area but was scared off after a shot was fired into the air, the DWR said.

The victim, along with the other campers, had stored all of their food well away from the sleeping area.

"He was doing everything correctly," Crompton said.

The man's name and hometown were not released.

Most of the time, a bear can simply be scared away, Crompton said. If campers encounter an aggressive bear, they should report it as soon as they can to the DWR. Other safety tips can be found at www.wildlife.utah.gov/bearsafety.

The bear encounter was the latest in a string of incidents this year.

 In August, roads leading to campgrounds in the area of the Ute Fire Lookout in the Ashley National Forest's Flaming Gorge Ranger District were closed due to black-bear activity.

 In July, a young black bear was killed after wandering into Balsam campground in Hobble Creek Canyon.

 The next day, the Fourth of July, a 180-pound black bear entered the backyard of a cabin in Provo Canyon where a family was holding a barbecue. The owner scared the animal off by firing warning shots into the air but killed the animal when it returned.

 Another bear forced the closure of the Provo River Trail in early July after being spotted on the trail near Bridal Veil Falls.

 Also in July, campers at Barker Reservoir on Boulder Mountain in Garfield County shot a bear that had been wandering in and out of their campsites for the past two days.

The number of bear sightings this year was about the same as 2008, Hadley said. But no bears were killed last year by anyone other than DWR officials, and there were no reported bear attacks.

"It's been a little different this year," he said.

With help from the Utah Highway Patrol and its helicopter, Hadley said, the plan was to retrieve the Carbon County bear Friday afternoon and take it to a lab to be examined.

e-mail: preavy@desnews.com

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