JENSEN, Uintah County — A black bear that had lost its fear of humans was shot and killed by a ranger at a remote campground in Dinosaur National Monument, the National Park Service said Monday.
The male bear began frequenting the Gates of Lodore campground on the Colorado side of the monument during the summer of 2011 to steal food and showed no fear of humans, according to monument Superintendent Mary Risser.
"It took food away from campsites and the Green River boat launch even as park visitors tried to scare it away," monument spokesman Dan Johnson added. "It even approached and touched campers sleeping on the sandbar near the river."
The Park Service initially partnered with the Colorado Division of Wildlife in the summer and fall of 2011 to try and trap the bear. That effort was unsuccessful and the bear "disappeared during the winter" when it went into hibernation, Risser said.
Then, on May 17, a ranger living in the cabin at the Gates of Lodore campground awoke about 5 a.m. to the sound of the bear trying to rip the screen door off the cabin, the superintendent said.
"We made the decision that we had to (destroy the bear) in the interest of public safety," Risser said, adding that relocating a bear who is habituated to humans "usually doesn't work."
On May 27, the bear again entered the campground and stole food from two campsites, despite the efforts of people to scare it off. That's when a ranger shot and killed the animal, which was easily identified as the problem bear because of a "distinctive brown marking," Risser said.
"Nobody joins the Park Service to do this," she said. "It's definitely the low point of a career."
The Gates of Lodore campground was never closed to the public during the problems with the bear. Instead the ranger and the campground host made contact with all visitors and advised them of the bear's behavior and the proper safety precautions, Risser said.
Many people do not consider Dinosaur National Monument to be "bear country," Johnson said, but there are frequent reports of people seeing the animals within the boundaries of the 200,000-acre monument.
"Park visitors are reminded to store food, garbage, camp coolers and other items that can attract bears in hard-sided vehicles or bear-proof storage boxes," Johnson said. "This helps keep bears from becoming conditioned to human food and helps keep park visitors and their property safe."