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Sunday, February 6, 2011

Bear attack kills boy, family sues Forest Service

In 2007 a bear savaged a campground in Utah, slashing open a tent and dragging out and killing an 11-year-old boy. The bear had previously attached campers in the area but authorities could not find it.

The family of the dead boy is suing the Forest Service for a half million dollars contending that the authorities should have warned them that a rogue bear was on the loose in the area. The suit goes to trial this week.

Attorneys for the Forest Service maintain that the FS is immune from litigation connected to the bear attack, contending the government has a duty to protect the public from being attacked by dangerous wildlife, but that duty does not mean the state can be held responsible for individuals who are attacked by bears or other vicious wildlife.

The issue, beyond the monetary aspects of the lawsuit, are whether forest service, BLM, or other federal employees that oversee camping in remote natural areas is responsible for what wild animals will do. We are, in fact, out in nature and should be willing to take the risks involved in camping or hiking there.

However, it is also a situation of what is the responsibility of these employees if they have knowledge of a dangerous animal in the area that the general public does not have, and what are their responsibilities in not only warning but safeguarding the public from such attacks. What do you think?

You can read the full story in the Salt Lake Tribune.

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  1. One word.. asinine. ANYTIME you are camping in the wilderness you KNOW there is an inherent risk of a negative run in with wildlife who actually have more rights to be in the campground area than we humans who are invading their habitat.

    We need to take reasonable precautions to protect ourselves & the forest service/government does need to try to track down animals that show extreme dangerous behavior and lack of fear of interaction with humans but they can not be held accountable when something goes wrong.

    It was a horrible event for the family to loose their son in such a manner and my heart hurts for their loss but suing for 1/2 a million does nothing to make anyone safer and sets a dangerous precedent if allowed to happen that eventually may cause an inability for the rest of us to utilize the fabulous wilderness due to a fear of being sued for every hiccup we humans encounter with the natural environment.

  2. Yes, we are in the bear's territory and need to take appropriate precautions to minimize those hazards. One of those precautions should be rangers providing warnings that a rogue bear is in the area and has been known to attack campers. Otherwise how can I, the camper, decide what precautions are best to take? I have backpacked in bear country but I would not do so if I knew a rogue bear was there.

    In fact, we left one park when a bear wandered into our campsite seeming unafraid. That bear stole three other packs that night. How would you like to haul your gear out of the woods with no pack? Yet, the rangers, who knew that bear was stealing packs, did not warn us of this behavior. I'm glad the bear itself did.

    To lose a child because of no warning of the potential danger was much worse! If the rangers had warned the family then the family chose to take the risk there would be no lawsuit now. If the rangers did not know a bear had turned rogue, there would be no lawsuit now. To know but not to tell is wrong!

    Linda Sand