HELPER, Carbon County — A Heber family camping in the Book Cliffs area had an unexpected visit from local wildlife Saturday, when a bear made a valiant effort to enter their trailer.
Sami Graham said she looked out the window of their camping trailer Saturday night and found herself staring at a 6-foot-tall black bear.
"This bear is standing straight up on his hind legs looking at me straight in the eye," she said. "I wasn't expecting to be nose-to-nose with this bear. I just hurried and closed my blinds."
The woman said she and her four children tried to scare the bear away by making noise inside the trailer. They jumped up and down, slammed cupboards and cranked up the volume on their TV to no avail.
The bear responded by rocking the trailer, scratching at the door and tearing at the trailer's fiberglass exterior for more than two hours as it attempted to enter, Graham said. Finally, the woman's husband returned and fired his pistol into the air, frightening the bear away.
"I always wanted to see a bear in the wild," Graham said. "It was on my bucket list, but I didn't want to kick the bucket to have it off my bucket list."
Dax Mangus, wildlife program manager in northeast Utah for the Utah Division of Wildlife Services, said there are a lot of bears in the Book Cliffs area and that they are often attracted by the food campers bring.
“They like the same kind of food we like if they can get it,” Mangus said.
He said the bear was first spotted and reported by campers Saturday morning. Bear trackers and their dogs responded and were able to track the bear's scent to the campsite.
Mangus said officials spoke with the family there and then attempted to locate the bear, but were unsuccessful. It is believed that bear was the one that returned to the camp Saturday night.
"That's concerning to us," he said.
The encounter was classified as an incident, not an attack, and because there are no campers in the area, the bear is not currently considered a threat. The DWR determines whether a bear is "an imminent threat to public safety" on a case by case basis, Mangus said.
Some signs are bears that are extremely aggressive and unafraid of people. When possible, officials will try to move a bear out of an area rather than kill it.
In some cases, they will sometimes use dogs to "harass" wildlife in an attempt to keep them from returning to certain areas. Hunters also help manage the bear population in the Book Cliffs area.
Meantime, Mangus urged campers to keep their campsites clean and to secure their food. DWR officials planned to return to the Graham campsite this week to post signs and see if there had been any other incidents.
"I'm hoping that the bear just stays away," Mangus said.
Contributing: Emiley Morgan