There are just black bears (Ursus americanus) in Utah. Thousands of black bears still live in the state’s hilly and heavily forested areas, despite it having one of the lowest numbers of black bears among western states. Bears in the state can be found both at lower levels and at elevations between 7,000 and 10,000 feet. Humans reside in many of these locations or engage in a variety of recreational pursuits there. However, where are these places? Before you embark on your next outdoor expedition, find out where in Utah you have the best chance of seeing a bear this winter.
Locations in Utah Where You’re Most Likely to See a Bear This Winter
Black bears are hibernating in winter. Similar to hibernation, they go into a sleep condition called torpor, which enables bears to wake up to give birth or flee from close danger. Droughts and other meteorological events, however, may cause their seasonal sleep routine to shift. Black bears may go into early hibernation as a result of dry summers that cause food shortages, awakening the following spring with an increased appetite.
Females begin denning in October, while males enter the dens in mid-November. This makes it unlikely, but not impossible, to see a bear before the weather warms up in April or May.
Although most bears spend the winter in their dens, it’s still a good idea to be aware of potential sleeping locations for the larger numbers. The locations in Utah where you are most likely to see bears this winter are listed below.
1. National Forest of Manti-La Sal
Scattered across 1.4 million acres, the Manti-La Sal National Forest includes parts of central to southeast Utah and southeast Colorado. The Manti Division, the La Sal Division at Moab, and the La Sal Division at Monticello are the three main regions that comprise the forest.
Numerous people visit the vast forest because of the mountains, high-elevation lakes, and outdoor activity options it offers. There is a lot of wildlife, especially in the isolated Abajo Mountains and Elk Ridge. The La Sal Mountains’ slopes and valleys are home to the densest population of black bears. In the Colorado Plateau’s holy area, mule deer and mountain lions are also common sights.
2. Wasatch Front
One of the areas in Utah where you have the highest chance of seeing a bear this winter is the Wasatch Front, which is part of the Manti-La Sal National Forest. The area includes Salt Lake City and extends from Brigham City to Provo. This region is home to an estimated 80% of the state’s population. The remarkable 11,000-foot-tall Wasatch Mountains and the active Wasatch Fault are two of the region’s most distinctive features.
The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources reports that there may be a rise in bear numbers in the state. Consequently, since 2019, there has been a rise in black bear encounters in the Wasatch Front. The likelihood of coming into a scavenger bear increases with the number of humans who live and camp near mountains or in the foothills.
3. National Forest of the Wasatch-Cache-Uinta
One of the last grizzly bears (Ursus horribilis) in Utah was Old Ephraim. He stood ten feet tall and weighed one hundred and one pounds. Apart from his stature, he was identified by his unique footprints found in the Cache Valley of the Wasatch-Cache National Forest. Twenty years after his demise in 1923, the vast Utah wilderness was home only to black bears.
As time goes on, black bear activity in the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest is increasing. Reports of “nuisance behavior,” such as rummaging through campsites and garbage cans, have increased over the last several years. A small boy was scratched by a bear in Hobblecreek Canyon in 2019. Frequent sightings of bears may suggest that some bears have lost their fear of people, which raises the possibility of deadly bear encounters.
4. Boulder Mountains
Numerous alpine lakes in the Boulder Mountains are stocked with fish, mostly brook trout. Boulder Mountains cliffs and steep slopes are not only a popular fishing site but also a hiking and camping destination. Elk, mule deer, mountain lions, and black bears inhabit the 50,000-acre forested mountain area. In the undulating forest, outdoor enthusiasts often observe these animals.
5. Book Cliffs
Another place in Utah where you have the best chance of seeing a bear this winter is Book Cliffs. Beginning at the Wasatch Plateau, the 1.2 million-acre stretch of desert mountains and cliffs ends at Grand Junction, Colorado, sometimes referred to as “Little Book Cliffs.” The cozy term comes from their resemblance to a bookcase. Numerous animals can be found in the Bookshelf Cliffs, such as a herd of 400 bison, hawks, antelope, mountain lions, and, of course, black bears.
6. Tushar Mountains
The 12,000-foot-tall Tushar Mountains are located outside of Beaver, where bear sightings are frequent. They are renowned for providing a wealth of plant species and an amazing alpine experience. They’re also the third-largest range in Utah. South-central Utah’s untamed terrain is home to an abundance of species, such as black bears, mountain lions, mule deer, and rocky mountain elk.
7. Canyonlands National Park
Since bears are native to southeast Utah, it should come as no surprise that you can see them in Canyonlands National Park. Some people go to the park via the Colorado River or its tributaries after leaving the Abajo Mountains.
Utah’s largest national park, with 337,598 acres of land and water, is the isolated Canyonlands National Park. The Island in the Sky, The Needles, and The Maze are the three regions that make up the area. Black bears have been observed visiting the Needles wilderness increasingly frequently over the years in order to get at campers’ food.
There are other canyons outside the Canyonlands where sightings of the elusive black bears occur. In the Salt Creek Canyon, outside of Zion National Park, sightings have happened.
It is reasonable to presume that black bears may exist anywhere there are mountains and thick forests.
How to Ensure Utah Bears Are Safe This Winter
Bears consume both vegetation and animals since they are omnivores. Unlike mountain lions, they are not required to hunt for food, but they will if there is nothing simpler to do. Although some bears are by nature more violent than others, they rarely attack people in an attempt to consume them.
They are hungry when there isn’t enough food for them to eat within their normal range. They go farther than usual due to their search, frequently ending up in places with a high population of people. Bears that have previously had success in residential areas or campgrounds will return to the region. Food, especially cat food, needs to be kept sealed for this reason.
Following Utah bear safety standards is the best way to keep safe in the areas where you’re most likely to come into contact with a bear this winter.