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Idaho Fish and Game

black bear walking in grass

Black bear encounters north of Ketchum raise public safety concerns for campers and recreationists


Food-conditioned bears continue to be a threat to public safety in the Sawtooth National Recreation Area north of Ketchum

Idaho Fish and Game officials in the Magic Valley Regional Office continue to receive reports of ongoing issues with black bears in dispersed campsites in the North Fork area of the Sawtooth National Recreation Area, located approximately 6 miles north of Ketchum. The reports, which have increased over the last several days, have come from campers and groups using a local church camp who have reported bears entering tents or attempting to gain access to hard-sided campers.

No injuries to people have been reported.

Bears gaining access to food or garbage continues to be at the root of the problem with human-bear conflicts in the Wood River Valley.

It is unknown at this time if these situations can be attributed to an individual bear or if it involves multiple bears throughout the North Fork drainage.

Since late July, multiple reports have come from Camp Manapu where bears have been seen around the camp, and on two occasions a bear, or bears, entered unoccupied tents at the church camp and destroyed sleeping bags. It has been reported that no food was found in the tents, however there was a report of perfume in one of the tents.

Over a three-night period a person camping near the North Fork Wood River trailhead reported a bear entering his campsite, and on one occasion the bear climbed onto the top of his hard-sided camper.

Officials with the Sawtooth National Recreation Area are aware of the bear situation and are expected to be issuing a notice of dispersed campground closure in response to the bear encounters with people.

Fish and Game officers will deploy a bear trap in the North Fork area in an attempt to remove the bear, or bears, since they have become a threat to public safety.

Keeping a clean camp is important

When camping in bear habitat it is critically important that campers do not leave food or garbage where a bear can get access to it. All food and garbage needs to be stored inside a secure camper or vehicle. Food should never be left out on a picnic table, especially if the camper leaves the campsite during the day.

Food or any attractant that puts off an odor should never be stored inside a tent, especially when the tent is occupied.

Safety tips when in black bear habitat

If a black bear is encountered in a campsite or on a trail, stay calm and never run. Bears are extremely fast and can quickly overtake a person trying to run away. Make sure the bear sees you. Often bears will stand up to get a better view, which is typically not an aggressive posture but rather one of curiosity.

If a bear is encountered, a person should:

  • Make as much noise as possible while slowing backing away.
  • Always keep your eyes on the bear.
  • Make yourself look as large as possible.
  • Never drop a backpack – especially if it has food in it. Never give a bear a food reward by allowing it to get a meal from a dropped backpack.
  • Bears can easily climb trees so don’t try to escape from a bear by climbing a tree.
  • Allow the bear plenty of room to move away by providing them an escape route.
  • Carry bear spray, have it readily available, and know how to use it. Do not carry it in your backpack.

If a sow with cubs is encountered, do not get between the sow and her cubs. The odds of an attack become much more likely if the sow perceives a person as a threat to her cubs.

If you are attacked by a black bear, DO NOT PLAY DEAD. If unable to escape the attack, fight back using any object available. Concentrate your kicks and blows on the bear's face and muzzle.

For more information or to report a bear encounter please contact the Magic Valley Regional Office at (208) 324-4359. If after hours, contact the local sheriff’s office.