More black bears are turning up in Utah's urban areas and campgrounds this summer because hot, dry weather is withering mountain vegetation and shrinking water supplies, officials say.
Arid conditions also are forcing deer, elk, skunks and raccoons to populated areas in search of food.In the past month, five black bears were killed for raiding livestock. Another was destroyed to ensure public safety, said Jordan Pederson, Division of Wildlife Resource non-game mammal program coordinator.
One bear was from Chalk Creek, east of Coalville in Summit County. Another two were killed on Boulder Mountain, two near Duchesne and one near Hoytsville in Ogden Canyon.
The Hoytsville bear was chased off a farmer's property and treed, Pederson said. DWR conservation officers were called, but before they could find a tranquilizer gun about 40 people had gathered and the bear started climbing down.
A man in the crowd - who held a bear hunting permit - was instructed to shoot the animal because "people's lives were in danger," Pederson said.
During dry years, Pederson said, it is not unusual for black bears to roam populated areas in search of food.
Bears - which are 90 percent vegetarian - like succulent plants. When that natural food supply dries up they increase their home range, which usually means wandering near cities or campgrounds where garbage is abundant.
"Bears are like 2-year-old kids: Everything they find goes into their mouths," Pederson said. "So whenever they can find a food source they'll home in on it."
Occasionally, a bear will turn to raiding livestock for nourishment.
In 1987 - which was considered a dry water year - 25 bears that preyed on livestock were killed by federal hunters from the Department of Agricultures's Division of Animal Damage Control. In 1976, another dry year, 26 were taken for the same reason, Pederson said.
In normal water years, anywhere from zero to 10 black bears are killed for livestock depredation.
Pederson said once a bear has killed livestock - usually sheep - it will plunder again "so it is our policy to remove that animal from the population."
"When we have bears coming into garbage dumps or making a nuisance of themselves in campgrounds we trap and move them," he said. "Last year we moved six of those bears."
The state's bear population - about 500 to 700 animals - spans from Logan to Cedar Mountain near Cedar City, with concentrations in the Uintah Basin, Book Cliffs, LaSal, Abajo and Elk Ridge mountains.
Meanwhile, in the Salt Lake Valley, deer crossing U-111 and Wasatch Boulevard have caused the most problems, said Grant Chapman, DWR law enforcement. But any road in northern Utah known for a high number of road kills in the winter will be affected.
There also are deer showing up in people's yards, especially in Murray and West Valley City, Chapman said.
"In the summer we usually don't have many calls about deer," he said. "But we're getting a lot now because there are a lot down in the valleys because it's so dry."
The DWR is instructing people who find deer near their home to leave them alone, and they will eventually leave.
For skunk and raccoon problems, the DWR offers pamphlets and loans traps, said Matt Peterson, urban wildlife assistant.