This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2017, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Sometimes you get the bear. Sometimes the guy whose supposed to get the bear with a tranquilizer dart gun gets you instead.
That is what happened earlier this week when a state wildlife biologist joined six other division employees visiting bear dens in eastern Utah's remote Book Cliffs region.
The unidentified 20-year Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR) veteran recovering at home Wednesday after spending a night in Provo's Utah Valley Regional Medical Center was part of a team monitoring black bear survival and reproduction rates.
The bears are located by tracking their previously attached radio collars, and the plan is to dart and tranquilize the animals to allow for a quick physical exam, replacement of worn transmitters and identification of new cubs.
At about noon Tuesday, the team located the den of a sow and her two cubs, born last winter. "We were curious to see if the cubs had survived," said Dax Mangus, regional wildlife manager for the DWR.
"We successfully darted the collared female and noticed one yearling bear also in the den with her," he added. "We loaded another dart and were ready to dart the yearling when the dart accidentally discharged and struck the biologist in his hand."
Team members are trained to provide emergency aid in such cases, and they acted quickly, Mangus said.
"We had only 15 to 20 minutes before he possibly lost consciousness, so we knew we had to act fast. We didn't have any cell service," he explained. "And, in the steep, timbered canyon, we knew we couldn't safely land a medical helicopter. So, we made a plan."
Three team members climbed to the top of a nearby ridge, got a cell signal and called for a medical helicopter to land there. Two other team members hiked back to their vehicles as a backstop measure, and the remaining employees gathered the team's gear.
The wounded biologist hiked to the top of the ridge on his own and was flown to the hospital for treatment. After an overnight stay, he was released Wednesday morning.
DWR officials declined to identify the biologist and asked news media not to attempt to interview him, at least for now.
"[He] needs time to rest and recover," DWR spokesman Mark Hadley said.