Grandfather of bear victim blames federal officials for ‘surreal nightmare’
PLEASANT GROVE, Utah – The grandfather of an 11-year-old boy who was killed by a black bear blamed authorities Tuesday for not warning that the hulking animal was believed to have harassed another group of campers at the same site hours earlier.Eldon Ives said the U.S. Forest Service should have shut down a nearby 30-site campground and warned everybody around that a dangerous bear was loose on a flank of 11,749-foot Mount Timpanogos, about 30 miles southeast of Salt Lake City.”We’re hoping that the Forest Service will do a better job protecting campers,” Eldon Ives told reporters at a news conference on his front lawn.Ives said his daughter and son-in-law were too distraught over the death of the boy, Sam Ives, to answer any questions.Authorities said they dispatched dogs after the first bear attack on a group of campers at dawn Sunday. That search turned futile in the heat of the day. The fatal attack on another group of campers came at the same primitive camp site just before midnight Sunday.
Wildlife officials are confident the same bear was involved in both attacks, said Scott Root, a manager for the state Division of Wildlife Resources.The Forest Service said the first incident was initially reported as a “brush-by” – a bear taking a harmless swipe at the side of a tent. Only later did it emerge as more serious, with one camper, Jake Francom, saying the bear kicked him in the head through the tent wall, sliced it open and clamped its jaw on a pillow, dragging it away.The Forest Service said it didn’t know enough about the first attack to warrant an aggressive warning or to shut down a makeshift camp amid a sprawling backcountry.”There’s incidents and there’s attacks. If we started closing sites down because of incidents, we might as well just lock up the public land,” acting District Ranger John Logan said Tuesday.”We can’t ‘sign’ every backcountry camp” with a warning, said Logan, who manages the Pleasant Grove district of the Uinta National Forest. “There’s bears everywhere. Where do you stop?”Several government agencies were involved, yet none issued an early warning of the loose bear, a heavy, healthy male that houndsmen fatally shot after a nearly 10-hour chase on Monday.
Logan said the Forest Service manages the land, but leaves predator control to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and responsibility for wildlife to the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. Utah County sheriff’s deputies responded first to the fatal mauling.”This was unusual. History will prove that out. There hadn’t been a fatal bear attack in Utah in recorded history,” Logan said Tuesday. “I think the agencies took appropriate action. Their intent was to remove this bear.”State wildlife officials said DNA tests confirmed the 300-pound bear was responsible for the fatal attack on the boy. He was dragged in his sleeping bag about 400 yards away in pitch darkness.The family put up the tent about a mile from the established Timpooneke campground, off a rough dirt road, where there are no developed sites but camping is allowed.”It’s been like a surreal nightmare,” Eldon Ives said Tuesday. “The violent way he was taken is a sorrow that will never heal.”Ives acknowledged authorities couldn’t have been expected to shut down part of a national forest over initially confusing reports about a problem bear but contends more forceful warnings were needed.
“I don’t know what can be done to deter a bear, a free-roaming creature … but another family at the same campground had almost a dry run on the same event,” said Ives, adding that rangers “should have taken more strenuous action to see to that this didn’t happen to anyone else.”He said there was no food in the tent or left outside to attract a bear.Sam was snatched from inside the tent, which had been a Father’s Day gift to his stepfather, Tim Mulvey.”Something’s dragging me!” the boy screamed as he was pulled away in his sleeping bag from the tent.Sam would have been a sixth-grader in the fall at Valley View Elementary School in Pleasant Grove.
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