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Three bear sightings in Morgan County

Article Date: 
12 July, 2013 (All day)

Photos of a black bear crossing the freeway near “the narrows” just past the Croydon exit have become famous, circulating around the internet and featured on KSL.  Henefer resident Steve Richins had heard rumors of a bear sighted in the area, so he and his wife went out on a bear hunt, and were successfully able to shoot the uncommon photos.  
Without patience, the couple would have missed this rare opportunity as they had driven around for 15-20 minutes before they spotted the animal “way up on the ledge.”  They watched it disappear into the pines and thought that may be the end to their view of the bear.  Then to their surprise, they saw the bear now estimated to be about 3 years old, down near the freeway.  Shocked by the speed of the bear, the couple even question that it may have been a pair of bears.
The bear crossed a chain link fence and then continued across the east bound lane, over the median, across the west bound lane, and climbed the guard rail.  After traversing the entire freeway, the bear had drawn an audience as it swam the Weber River and climbed the hill.  The bear then carried what appeared to be a dead fawn into the brush, ending the exciting show for the crowd of 15-20 onlookers.  
Morgan resident Evan Kippen was on his way to work in Park City when he noticed cars pulled off to the side of the road.  Kippen was able to watch the bear climb out of the river.  The 23 year old construction worker would have enjoyed spending more time watching the black bear climb the mountain; however he had to continue his way to work at Wardell Construction.  
That wasn’t Kippen’s first bear sighting in the county.  In fact, less than two weeks before, Kippen was driving through Weber County with friends Sam Francis and Zac Comer on their way home about 10:30 p.m.   The trio spotted what they first thought was a large deer standing on the center line of the freeway.  As they neared the animal, they realized it wasn’t a common deer but a hulking bear.  As they drove towards it, the bear ran in front of Kippen’s truck and perched on the guard rail.  The group of friends watched as the bear ran back across the freeway to the side of the road.  
Kippen says he did a double take when he saw the second bear near Croydon; he was surprised to see two bears in less than two weeks.  Evan’s father, Dee Kippen, joked that he wants to start riding around with his son because he has never seen a bear in the wild in Morgan County after spending his entire life here. 
Bear sightings in the developed areas of Morgan are rare but the last month has brought at least three sightings as a bear was spotted on Morgan Valley Drive near Line Creek in early June.  The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources explains that Utah is bear country, specifically Morgan is bear country.  With this string of unusual bear sightings, it could be alarming to area residents; however Arlo Wing, Wildlife Resources, suggests there are not more bears just more people.  As more people are in our area especially recreating, there are more opportunities for people to see these magnificent creatures.  The DWR reports that drought conditions may be the cause of bears entering our populated areas.  Bears’ diets are over 90 percent vegetation and the drought makes it harder for bears to satisfy their hunger.  
On top of that, Paula Harrington, local animal control, feels that mating season has male bears  looking for their mates.  This can cause them to travel great distances.  Harrington advises pet owners to protect small animals, particularly advising against tying pets to a tree.  
Wing and Harrington have many of the same recommendations including; securing trash cans inside garages or sheds in rural areas, cleaning grills or keeping them inside, and when camping, taking care to keep food odors at minimum around the clock.  Bird feeders have been a particular attractant to bears.  Commercial bird seeds are often covered in molasses, sugar or honey, which draw bears in closer to homes and cabins.   
The  website www.wildlife.utah.gov has a section with information about being in bear country with tips on avoiding bears, as well as what to do if you do encounter a bear.
If bears are spotted in the wild, there is no need to alert anyone as it is the bears home; however if bears are spotted in residential areas, the DWR asks that they be contacted, or dispatch if after hours.  In emergency situations, 911 should be called.