UPDATE: The bear was captured and released Friday, click here for the details and footage from the release.
Previous story continues below:
STRAWBERRY RESERVOIR, Utah -- A hungry bear shut down a popular camgpround along Strawberry Reservoir, as the US Forest Service closed Aspen Grove campground on Thursday.
The closure follows two straight days of finding evidence the bear had visited overnight.
"That little rascal, two mornings ago I come out of my trailer just above us here and walked around the side to start my rounds in the campgrounds and my fridge door and my freezer was wide open, he'd taken all the food spread it all over the ground," said Virgil Lazenby, the assistant camp host at Aspen Grove campground.
His refrigerator and freezer were outside his camp trailer. Another refrigerator suffered the same fate, prompting a call to the US Forest Service.
"The reason we closed the campground is one, for public safety: We don't want anyone getting hurt by a bear and we want to take care of the bear," said David Whittiekiend, the Forest Supervisor for the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest. "The best situation is if the bear decides to move on, doesn't come back and we can re-open the campground and it's business as usual."
Violating the closure could mean a fine of $5,000 for an individual or $10,000 for an organization.
In 2007, the Forest Service was criticized and sued after a bear attack in American Fork Canyon claimed the life of 11-year-old Sam Ives of Pleasant Grove. The bear in that case pulled Ives from his tent. The night prior, it's believed the same bear had attacked another tent. Ives's family questioned why the Forest Service had not closed the area.
The current closure at Aspen Grove campground will remain in effect until the bear moves on or is trapped. A trap has been set up near where the bear broke into one of the refrigerators.
If caught, the Division of Wildlife Resources will classify the bear as high or low risk. Low risk animals are taken to a designated area and released back into the wild, while high risk animals are often euthanized. The bear has yet to show any aggression toward humans and would likely be classified as low risk.
Wild Aware Utah is an awareness program that runs a website to educate Utahns about what to do when encountering various animals, from those that are a nuisance to others that are dangerous. Click here for safety tips and information about bears, and visit their main page for much more information about staying safe while recreating in the great outdoors.