Bear attacks 14-year-old boy sleeping in camp
Incident highlights the need to be bear aware this
PHOENIX – A young black bear attacked and slightly injured a
14-year-old boy Sunday morning who was out camping with friends
along the Gila River near Hayden. State wildlife authorities say
the attack and other incidents highlight the need for campers
and other outdoor recreationists throughout the state to be bear
aware this season.
“Fortunately, the young man only sustained minor injuries
from the bear attack. Hopefully, this incident will raise
people’s awareness about the potential of increased
human-wildlife interactions this year due to the prolonged
drought. Black bears should always be considered unpredictable
and dangerous to people,” says Randy Babb, an Arizona Game and
Fish Department spokesperson.
Authorities say the boy and three friends were camping along
the Gila River at a place called the Shores Recreation Area. The
four boys were sleeping on the ground and say they kept a clean
camp. At about 5:30 a.m. Sunday morning, the victim woke up to a
bear standing over him. The bear swatted the boy, and when his
friends were awoken by the incident, they chased the bear off.
A woman at a nearby camp told wildlife officers she saw a
bear come through the area about 5 a.m., stop and eat some food
out of tin cans on the ground, and then move on. That was
shortly before the incident with the sleeping boy.
The Shores Recreation Area has been temporarily closed by the
Bureau of Land Management due to the bear incident. The bear was
likely attracted to the camping area because of the significant
amount of trash surrounding this popular recreation site.
Due to the aggressiveness shown by the bear and the concern
for public safety, wildlife officers responded to the scene and
were setting up culvert bear traps when a young black bear
fitting the description of the offending animal came out of the
dense vegetation along the river bottom. From about 30 yards
away, a wildlife officer was able to shoot the bear. “The shot
was taken at close range, and from the sign, we feel confident
that the bear was mortally wounded and died soon after being
shot,” says Babb.
State wildlife authorities say human interactions with bears
and other wildlife animals are likely on the increase due to the
state’s prolonged drought. Babb explained that during the
winter-spring of 2004-05, the state experienced record rainfall,
and the available food stuffs for bears and other wildlife
species was terrific. Last year, biologists noted lots of bear
sows with two cubs. Those cubs are now hungry yearlings actively
searching for something to eat.
As a result, bear calls and incidents are on the increase in
many areas of the state. “We have had a number of recent
human-bear incidents around the state. If you go camping, be
sure to be bear aware,” says Babb.
In one recent incident in the area of Clear Creek Estates
between Flagstaff and Payson, a bear approached a boy and girl
sitting on their father’s pickup and the children ran. The bear
chased the young girl to within 10 feet of her father, who
yelled at the bear. The bear stopped and stood its ground for
some time, before finally wandering off. Wildlife authorities
are actively searching for the aggressive bear.
Game and Fish Department biologists say the root cause of
most conflicts between bears and people, especially in camping
areas, is food. Officials say it is prudent for all outdoor
recreatonists to take the following precautions to minimize
potential conflicts with bears and other wildlife:
- Never intentionally feed wildlife.
- Secure all garbage.
- Keep a clean camp.
- Do not cook in your tent or sleeping area.
- Store all foods, toiletries and other scented items well away
from sleeping areas and unavailable to bears.
- Wash up, change clothing and remove all scented articles
before retiring to your sleeping area.
- Walk or jog in groups. Pay attention to your surroundings when
hiking, jogging or bicycling.
- Supervise your children and keep them in sight.
- Keep your pets on a leash – don’t allow them to roam free. Or
better yet, leave them at home if you can. Pets can easily get
into conflicts with a wide range of wildlife from skunks to
But if you are confronted by a bear, never ever run. Try to
make yourself look as big and imposing as possible. Stay facing
the animal. Throw something at it. Speak and let it know you are
human. Loud noises can help. Try clanging pans, using air horns,
or whatever is available.