Monday, June 18, 2007
AMERICAN FORK, Utah — Wildlife officers wounded a bear Monday, hours after an 11-year-old boy was snatched from his family’s tent and killed, a rare fatal attack in Utah’s Wasatch Mountains.
With 26 dogs assisting them in the search, authorities were confident that the bear that was shot was the same one that ripped through the tent shortly before midnight Sunday.
“The dogs are on the scent. … We’re hopeful this bear will be taken shortly,” Jim Karpowitz, director of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, said at an 11 a.m. MDT news conference.
The boy, his mother, stepfather and a 6-year-old brother were sleeping in a large tent in a primitive camping area, about 30 miles southeast of Salt Lake City.
The stepfather heard a scream, and the boy and his sleeping bag were gone. A host from a nearby campground contacted police.
“When we got up there we realized, hey, this looks like a bear. The sleeping bag was pulled out of the tent,” said Lt. Dennis Harris of the Utah County sheriff’s office.
He said the boy’s body was found about 400 yards away, in the direction of another campsite where a bear was seen earlier in the weekend and pursued by dogs without success. Authorities believe it was the same bear that killed the boy.
“When it’s hot and dry like this, bears are short of food,” Karpowitz said.
The Utah wildlife agency and the U.S. Forest Service were pursuing the wounded bear with the help of a helicopter. It was described as a male, possibly 300 pounds and “jet black.”
Karpowitz said it was the first fatal attack by a black bear in Utah.
American Fork Canyon is a popular camping destination and home to Timpanogos Cave National Monument. Harris said the family was camping about two miles up a dirt road.
“It’s shaken everybody up. We’re all distraught,” said Scott Root, conservation outreach manager at the Utah wildlife agency. “It could put a lot of fear in the public.”
It was not known what provoked the bear, though a bear can smell food for miles.
“They stick their nose in the air. It’s like radar,” said Hal Black, a biologist at Brigham Young University in Provo.
In July 2006, a black bear bit the arm of a 14-year-old Boy Scout while he slept in a tent, also in Utah County. The female bear returned to the campground and was killed. The boy was not seriously injured.