Bear sightings prompt partial closure of Payson Lakes campground

Published: Friday, July 22 2011 6:12 p.m. MDT

Two bear sightings around Payson Lakes camprgound has some holiday campers concerned. Three of the group sites in the area are closed until the bears are captured and relocated.

Steve Landeen, Deseret News

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PAYSON — Two bears prowling around a popular Utah campground have holiday campers on alert this weekend.

Three of the group sites at Payson Lakes campground and the picnic area remained closed Friday because of bear sightings.

Wildlife officers say two black bears were seen roaming around the campground Thursday, and teams tried to scare them out of the area. Officials trapped a bear once, and tried to chase it away with loud noises and bean bag guns, but the bear headed up a tree and wouldn't come down.

Another bear was spotted near the lake that same day, prompting wildlife officials to ask campers to leave the campground.

This time of year, young bears wander around looking for their own territory. Deep snow at higher elevations have forced many of them to lower areas than normal, where campers rarely see them.

While word spread fast around the camp about the bears, no one seemed too concerned.

“We’ve gone camping our whole lives, a lot up in the Uintas too, so we just make sure we take precautions to put everything away,” camper Kristal Thompson said Friday.

Spending the Pioneer Day holiday at Payson Lakes is a tradition for Shawn Karr and his family. He wasn't too worried about the bears.  

“We’ll just keep the kids close and the dog,” he said.

Their dog named Bear is giving them a little peace of mind, knowing they will have some warning if a bear approaches them.

Lisa Hancock and her daughter Rachael are visiting from Arizona and are planning on backpacking and camping for the night.

“It’s a little concerning,” camper Lisa Hancock said. “It just makes us want to be safer, but we’ve been in these mountains before.”

Rachael Hancock said she wasn’t too concerned. “I figure there are always bears up here,” she said.

Officials have warned campers not to leave food out, to keep campsites clean and when hiking, to make a lot of noise. They also say that if a bear is spotted, campers should remain calm and not run away.

Until the bears are captured and relocated to a remote area, the Forest Service said the camping areas they have been spotted in will remain closed as a precaution.

E-mail: jboal@desnews.com

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