Bear Kills Utah Boy–Who is Responsible?

This is not a post about Mormons, or non-Mormons, or ex-Mormons, or Mormons-with-delusions-of-grandeur–like-“Call-me-President.”

I–along with the rest of this state, most of the nation, and even some of the world–was stunned with the news that an 11-year-old boy was dragged from his tent during a family camping trip to American Fork Canyon. He was mauled to death by a black bear.

It is what is BELIEVED to be the first human death attributed to a black bear in Utah history. Generally, black bears are afraid of humans, but because they are BEARS, they are, of course, dangerous. You don’t make it through life without knowing that.

My heart aches for this family. I was stunned to hear about the death, and frankly, as a mother, the hair went up on my arms. What a horrifying thing to have happen to your child.

But I take issue with the apparent finger-pointing now going on. The grandfather of the boy is now pointing the blame at the Forest Service, and the Division of Wildlife Resources. Apparently, because the bear had earlier attacked another group camping, they believe that not enough was done to warn campers.

This is despite the fact that after the first attack, where no one was injured, a full-on search to find–and kill–the bear was mounted. While DWR and other agencies and hunters with dogs were tracking the bear, and very, very busy, the family of Samuel Ives made camp, excited to try out the new tent that they had given their stepfather for Father’s Day.

Because no warnings had been handed out individually to campers, or the campsites closed, the family believes that the government agencies were–and are–somewhat responsible for Samuel’s death.

We are a camping family. We camp regularly, and often, and every time we go out, we are aware of the risk. You can drown in any lake. You can fall off a cliff. You can tumble down a mountain. You can also, unfortunately, be attacked by a bear, because in the MOUNTAINS you are in the bear’s home. Not the other way around.

While I agree that it would have been nice for the camping area to have been closed, I’m pretty sure that DWR and the Forest Service were pretty damn busy trying to FIND the bear, and given the rarity of black bear attacks, were more worried about removing the threat. There are SIGNS posted all over the forests, everywhere you go, WARNING that this is bear country.

My heart still goes out to this family, and I think it is natural to want to place blame when a tragic event occurs. Perhaps, even, DWR and the Forest Service can consider this for future protocol when an event like this happens, but I don’t really feel like they had enough time to personally warn every camper in this area of the attack. It was a primitive area, and they focused their efforts on getting the bear. It’s horrible that it had this result.

I would imagine that more than one of the people involved in this are heartsick right now, devastated for this family and their horrible loss. I’ve known a few DWR and Forest Service employees, and they do NOT do what they do for the money. Believe me, it ain’t there. They love the land. They love wildlife. They want others to enjoy and love it, too.

For young Samuel, I wish you Godspeed. I’m sorry your encounter with nature turned out so tragically. I ache for your family. And I am not alone.

Samuel, rest in peace.


About Natalie R. Collins

Natalie has more than 30 years writing, editing, proofreading and design experience. She has written 20 books (and counting), has worked for the Sundance Film Festival, and as an investigative journalist, editor, and proofreader. She embraces her gypsy-heart and is following her new free-thinking journey through life. Follow her as she starts over and learns a bunch of life's lessons--some the hard way.
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12 Responses to Bear Kills Utah Boy–Who is Responsible?

  1. azteclady says:

    It is a terrible tragedy, no doubt it is–but I don’t think that we can always assign blame to others. Sometimes these things simply happen.

    I’m praying for the family and all the people involved.


  2. Cele says:

    What Az said, you can’t blame the Forest Service or DWS. There is nothing that says a bear will stay in one specific place, which is underscored by the fact they couldn’t find the bear. And are they certain it was the same bear?

    I wish for Sameul and his family peace.


  3. I agree with azteclady.

    It is a tragedy and so very sad.



  4. Tracy says:

    You don’t have to be in a primitive area to see black bears. They always come down from the mountain where I live, looking for food and a cool pool to splash in.

    Rest in Peace Samuel.


  5. T.B. says:

    So damn sad.


  6. Yes, it sad, T.B. But it is nature vs. man. Sometimes, to me, that is more understandable than man vs. man. Ya know?


  7. Randall says:

    Sometimes I think that “Stuff” happens. I have spent a large part of my life in the outdoors and living in remote areas and I have never seen a cougar in the wild or known anyone who has been attacked by one. Yet with several hundred millions of people in the US there are less than 1/2 of 1% that have.

    How many people do you know that are stabbed through the heart by a stingray? Sterve Irwin is the only one I know.

    Stop trying to find blame and accept the fact that we are not in control in the universe and sometimes when stuff happens it happens to your family….

    My condolences to the parents and grandparents.


  8. Remi P Coulon says:

    Sorry about the parents for losing their child and for the child for losing his life.
    Nobody will bring him back, just if do not forget about him he will keep on living
    Now I don’t think going around playing the blame game is the right thing to do. It usually does not change the outcome, which is ; the boy is still dead.
    If each individual takes his own responsabilities for their action he will surfer his own consequences.
    Unfortunatly in some case it involves life itself, but other cases it could be something great, beautiful, a new life or other wonderful things.
    Since the family was camping frequently they knew the danger of being in bear country. warned or not. the fact that you know it is dangerous then it is dangerous!
    What if it is just an accident, plain and simple, just an accident? Why anyone has to be blame? What about the bear? He is the killer that a fact.
    We as a society have pushed the wild and dangerous animal in a confined nature. Their living space are reduced to nothing really. Plus bears love to eat and easy food is excellent for them. So should we blame ourself as society for changing their habitat and allowing them to become the way they are today. Closer to human as ever.
    I don’t know the answer to this, there is always greater power than ourself, but I kn ow this life goes on and for the parent and grandparent of Samuel life will go on too
    Not the same for sure but it will go on.

    I also have Children and I cannot imagine the pain it must give you in those situation. I shall think of you for time to time.
    Have a great life trust me that all we have and we only borrow it for a while, We have to take vantage of life for the rest of our life


  9. Evelyn McKennon says:

    Over Memorial Day weekend my family and I were camping in a primitive campground in New Mexico, and the camp host was careful to let us know about the behavior of a bear that had been roaming through the campgrounds the night before.
    Given the fact that there had been a bear who had been agressive enough to slice a tent open around dawn, I would think that alerting the campers in that area should have been a very high priority. If the behavior of the bear warranted a full on search for the bear, then that information should have been provided to campers in the area. It would seem that informing campers and looking for the bear should not be mutually exclusive events.


  10. azteclady says:

    Evelyn said, “It would seem that informing campers and looking for the bear should not be mutually exclusive events.”

    If you have enough resources to do both, then by all means proceed! From what I’ve read, that is not the case here. It is tragic, no one is arguing that, but sometimes these things happen and blaming someone else who is probably already feeling rather shitty about it is just overkill.

    I certainly hope that once the family’s grief has run it course, they’ll stop looking for someone to blame.

    [Something like the mother of the Texas 13 year old who drowned while the firefighters were trying to pull him from a rushing creek–she’s telling journalists that “the firefighters killed her son.” Makes me wonder why people ever choose professions in which they are vulnerable to these attacks.]


  11. Darlene says:

    Some house hold pets are aggressive, some pets are not aggressive. I think it could possibly be that this particular Black bear was more aggressive. opinion of a Texas mother


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