Dry weather conditions may force more black bears from Utah's mountains to lower elevations in search of food, the Division of Wildlife Resources says.

The division last week killed a black bear that wandered into Hoytsville, Summit County. Black bears are basically plant eaters, and a dry spell reduces the amount of forage available, threatening their survival, said Jordan Pederson, mammals program coordinator for Wildlife Resources."Normally adult bears have a well-defined home range," Pederson said. "But, when there are periods of stress, such as conditions brought on by the lack of moisture, they wander outside these areas in search of food."

The scarcity of food may also lead to a decline in the female bear's health, since cubs will nurse more and longer. Attending to the cubs may prevent the female from foraging for food and the younger bears may compete with their mother for food.

"A young cub will normally stay with its mother for a little over a year before setting out on its own," Pederson said.

"However, if the female senses a drain on her body condition and there's not sufficient food to keep up her strength and reserves, she is likely to abandon her young as a survival response to severe environmental pressure."

Citizens are urged to avoid bears that wander into their communities and to contact the division so the animals can be returned to the wild if possible, he said.