TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - The behavior of a nuisance bear in the Santa Rita Mountains appeared to escalate Saturday when it reportedly charged to within five to 10 feet of hikers more than two miles up the Old Baldy Trail, according to Arizona Game and Fish.
Game and Fish says the Madera Canyon trail had just reopened after it was closed by the Coronado National Forest on October 7 following three close encounters with apparently the same bear between September 30 and October 4.
"The escalating behavior of this bear is a clear and present danger to public safety, and requires a proactive management response by us,” said Regional Supervisor Raul Vega of the Arizona Game and Fish Department in a press release.
Vega says hikers should not return to the area until the issue is resolved.
The Old Baldy Trail and Super Trail are temporarily closed, the closure has been extended until November 16, according to Heidi Schewel of the U.S. Forest Service.
The trails are closed from the Super Trail and Old Baldy trailheads to Josephine Saddle.
Game and Fish says most of the incidents have happened near Bellow Springs.
The bear is described as dark brown to black and of medium size, possibly weighing between 150 and 200 pounds.
Game and Fish advises that if bears are seen in the distance, hikers should change their route to avoid contact.
If hikers are approached by a bear, hikers should discourage contact by looking large and imposing, waving their arms or a jacket, making loud noises and giving the bear an opportunity to leave the area.
In the situation that a bear does not leave, hikers are advised to stay calm, face the animal and slowly back away. Running should be avoided and no one should play dead in the presence of a bear.
Bear sightings should be reported to Game and Fish at 623-236-7201.
Game and Fish provided the following tips to avoid bear contact:
Keeping a clean camp or picnic site.
Stowing food, pet food, trash and picnic coolers out of sight and out of smell range of bears.
Utilizing bear-proof food and trash receptacles where provided.
Washing and stowing cooking utensils immediately following use.
Not taking odorous items (toothpaste, lotions, etc.) or clothing used while cooking into tents.