Nick Greeve was sleeping under the stars at a campsite along the Green River in Desolation Canyon when he awoke to face his worst nightmare — a black bear trying to drag him from his sleeping bag.

The 18-year-old West Linn, Ore., resident was camping with other students and instructors of the Outdoor Leadership School, located in Jensen, Uintah County, when the bear attacked Monday.

The campers were sleeping in the open, in a circular pattern with their feet at the center of the circle.

Greeve's screams woke the others who chased the bear away.

The group floated Greeve down the river in Desolation Canyon to the town of Green River, where he was taken to Castle View Hospital in Price. He was treated and released for puncture wounds and lacerations.

Wildlife officials and the Ute Tribe are attempting to hunt down the bear and kill it. It will then be tested for rabies and any other disease or condition that may have prompted the attack.

Bill Bates, southeastern region wildlife manager for the Division of Wildlife Resources, said the bear probably won't be found.

At the campsite wildlife agents tried to lure the bear back with the smell of cooking bacon, but the bear's tracks indicated the animal had returned to the high cliffs. They also used a Utah Highway Patrol helicopter to search for the bear, he said.

Bruce Palmer, executive director of the National Outdoor Leadership School headquarters in Wyoming, said the Utah branch of the Outdoor Leadership School specializes in whitewater river rafting trips. More schools are based in Alaska, the Pacific Northwest, the Yellowstone National Park area, Chile and New Zealand, among others.

"We do operate in remote areas. There's a whole variety of risks," Palmer said. "We certainly see bears from time to time."

But this is the first bear attack in one of his group's outings, Palmer said. The school was founded in 1965.

It's the first bear attack in Utah in 11 years.

Still, it can happen, wildlife officials warn.

"Bear attacks are extremely rare, but they do occur," said Craig McLaughlin, mammals coordinator for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. "Often, a bear becomes aggressive toward people after it establishes a pattern of obtaining food from campsites and picnic areas. Fortunately, there are several things people can do to lessen the chance of a bear attacking them while they're camping."

Bear attacks can be avoided. Wildlife officials offer the following tips:

  • Keep the campsite clean. Don't leave garbage, food scraps or fat drippings in the fire pit or scattered around the campsite. Instead, place them in airtight containers and take them home with you.

  • Don't leave a messy cooking grill or food left on utensils. Bears have an incredible sense of smell.

  • Don't leave food out. Instead, store food and coolers in the trunk of your car, in your camping trailer, a bear-proof container or suspended at least 12 feet high between two trees so the bears can't reach them.

  • Never intentionally feed bears by leaving food out for them.

  • Make sure you cook away from your tent or sleeping area. Don't sleep with the clothes you cooked in or wore while cleaning fish. Leave those clothes, along with utensils, rags and anything else used in food preparation, cooking, eating and cleanup at the cooking area or sealed inside a vehicle.

  • By the end of July, the Division of Wildlife Resources plans to place placards outlining bear safety tips on picnic tables in campgrounds. Officials also plan to distribute a "Camping with Bears" video to campground hosts across the state.


    Contributing: Associated Press

    E-mail: [email protected]