Wildlife officials warn about man-animal interaction

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For those exploring Arches, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef or Zion National Parks this summer, the National Park Service has posted safety precautions on X for encountering wildlife.

A bear enjoys its salmon dinner. The National Park Service warned that bears gather toward quality food. (@NatlParkService via X)

“Bears are generally solitary creatures, but they do congregate around high quality food sources,” the National Park Service said in a post with a bear enjoying its salmon dinner.

The National Park Service’s most frequent warnings regard visitors properly storing their food. Zion National Park’s Instagram page gives a brief but efficient explanation of these warnings by using the state of squirrels and chipmunks in the parks as a caveat.

“The squirrels and chipmunks in the park have become very used to visitors. … Feeding animals leads them to not being able to find food on their own, making them dependent on people. Plus, they will bite if you try to touch them,” the post said.

Shayne Patrick takes a photo right after surviving a bear attack. Patrick’s experience is an example of how basic safety precautions can save lives while exploring the outdoors. (@Shayne Patrick via Facebook)

These warnings extends to all park visitors, as they not only apply to when visitors encounter small animals such as squirrels and chipmunks, but they also apply for when larger animals cross one’s path.

A Zion National Park squirrel sits in front of a sign warning visitors not to feed the wildlife. The photo is a demonstration of the increasing comfortability squirrels and chipmunks are experiencing with park visitors. (@zionnps via Instagram)

Shayne Patrick, a veteran from Massachusetts, recently shared his own grisly story on Facebook about his encounter with a bear. Maintaining his respect for wildlife, Patrick referred to the encounter as “the most violent thing I have ever experienced.”

Patrick was trying to catch a photo of a great grew owl when he found himself alone with spotty cell reception and was attacked by a protective mother bear.

“The number one thing that kept me alive during the attack was reading and understanding what to do in the event of a bear attack and being prepared with the bear spray,” he said. Patrick was rescued from the scene via helicopter.

The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources releases a juvenile bear found stuck in a tree in Salt Lake City. It is possible to run into bears in Utah’s national parks. (@Utah Division of Wildlife Resources via Facebook)

When a juvenile bear was rescued from a tree in Salt Lake City in early June, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources informed Utahns that bears are currently waking up from hibernation and it is possible to see them migrating at this time.

Though this bear was found unintentionally, according to National Park Service’s mortality data from 2014-2019, more than 50% of the deaths that occurred in the parks were unintentional.

The National Park Service said the statistic is not meant to scare away visitors, but Visit Utah reminds those who visit Utah’s national parks that exploring the outdoors is a shared experience with wildlife and should be prepared for accordingly.

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