Experts: Drought, fires push bears to campgrounds - CBS 5 - KPHO

Experts: Drought, fires push bears to campgrounds

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PAYSON, AZ (CBS5) -
The recent string of bear attacks in Arizona's high country has some folks re-thinking their camping trips for the holiday. So we went to the experts to ask the question everyone is asking: Is it safe to go camping?
 
"You can see how strong these guys are," said Linda Searles with the Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center. "They decide, they know, that if they go into that campground, they're going to be rewarded."

She said the bears like fish and fruit and they love peanut butter. But bears are going after much more than what's in your camping pantry.

"We have three confirmed attacks since May 31," said Tim Holt with the Arizona Game and Fish Department.

They're going after people. And three bears have been killed because of it. Arizona Game and Fish Department officials don't yet know if the bears were involved in the attacks, but they aren't taking any chances.

"Until we can get that evidence and the bears analyzed, we will continue to search for additional bears," he said.

On May 31, a sleeping camper was attacked at the Ponderosa Campground.

On Thursday night, a man sleeping in an unfinished cabin near Payson was attacked.

And Sunday morning, a man sleeping next to his fiancée and infant son was attacked at the Ponderosa campground and is in a hospital in critical condition.

"Everything, any food source is going to attract bears right now," Searles said.

She added that with the fires in Arizona and the drought, bears are going into campgrounds looking for food. With that in mind, is it safe to enjoy the high country this summer?

"Just as if you were going to another country, you want to educate yourself on the culture and what was out there on the locals," she said. "Well, you go out into the forest, these are the locals!"

She added you must be smart about camping. Bring bear-proof containers, don't wear fragrant deodorants or perfumes and avoid the Ponderosa area in the meantime.

For more information on bear safety, visit: http://www.azgfd.gov/ and http://southwestwildlife.org/.

Copyright 2012 CBS 5 (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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