Map: Ponderosa Campground
PAYSON, Ariz. -- Another camper was attacked by a bear Sunday morning in the Ponderosa Campground, according to officials with the Arizona Game and Fish Department.
The victim, a 30-year-old man from Tempe, was asleep at the time of the attack. The man was hospitalized in critical condition, but he is expected to survive.
The man's fiance and 1-year-old child were also present during the attack, but they were able to escape without any injuries.
Another camper in the area chased the bear away by shooting at the animal multiple times. It's not known if the bear was hit by any bullets.
U.S. Forest Service personnel evacuated the campground this morning, and wildlife officers from the Arizona Game and Fish Department and personnel from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services are currently searching for the bear.
“Extensive efforts are being made to locate and remove the animal for the public’s safety, which is our top priority,” said Rod Lucas, regional supervisor for Game and Fish.
If the bear is captured, it will be lethally removed because of the aggressive, predatory behavior the bear exhibited and the need for disease testing.
Sunday’s bear attack was the third in the past two months. In response to the incident, Tonto National Forest officials have announced that the Ponderosa Campground, the Christopher Creek Campground, and the Sharp Creek Campground will be temporarily closed.
The closure will remain in effect until August 31.
The Ponderosa Campground was closed for two weeks earlier this month after a bear clawed a woman sleeping in a tent on May 31.
This past Friday, a construction worker in the Thompson Draw area was attacked by a bear while he slept.
“At this point there is no way of telling if the bear in this morning’s attack was involved in either of the other two incidents,” said Lucas. “We’ll know more if we’re able to remove the bear and do DNA and other testing.”
With the state’s drought and scarce wildlife food resources, more and more wildlife are moving into areas that are on the fringe of wildlands, looking for food. Bears are particularly attracted to areas where humans are because of the often easy access to garbage, food and gardens.
It is important that outdoor recreationists be “bear aware.” Secure all food sources, cooking gear and trash well away from camps and tents when recreating in bear areas. Bears are attracted to areas with dumpsters, trash bins and campsites with food.
Bear attacks on humans are rare. This is only the 10th documented bear attack in Arizona since 1990, but the third this year.