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Updated: 12:06 PM-
AMERICAN FORK CANYON - Rifle-toting wildlife officers and a pack of specially trained hounds have cornered and killed a bear thought to have mauled a boy to death.
In what was believed to be the first ever Utah fatality involving a black bear attack, the animal reportedly ripped open a tent and carried off an 11-year-old boy in his sleeping bag at a primitive camping area late last night in the Timpooneke trail area of American Fork Canyon. About 7 a.m., a volunteer hunter with the search team shot what was believed to be the renegade bear in a tree; the animal ran off, leaving a blood trail behind near the northeast tip of Mount Timpanogos.
Shortly before noon, according to the Utah County Sheriff's Office, hunters and hounds closed in on the wounded animal and killed it. A helicopter was being dispatched to retrieve the bear's remains.
Earlier, after a Utah Highway Patrol helicopter spotted the bear, John Childs says he wounded the animal with a shoulder shot from his 35-caliber Remington rifle. Hunters are trying to locate the animal with the aide of several bear hounds. The canines are equipped with radio collars and let loose to pursue the bear; searchers can use the radio signals to detect hounds that may have stopped to confront the animal.
Utah County Sheriff's Lt. Dennis Harris says the boy was reported missing about 11:10 p.m. last night. The boy's family - his mother, stepfather and a 6-year-old brother - heard the boy screaming and rushed to help, but he was already gone. Searchers followed bear tracks into the forest and about 11:35 p.m. found the boy's remains - about 400 yards away from the shredded tent.
The campsite is located about 10-12 miles up American Fork Canyon and two miles above the paved road from the Timpooneke campground -- some distance away from the developed portion of the campground.
The identity of the victim was not immediately released.
Wildlife officials were aware of bear problems in the area earlier, according to Scott Root, a state conservation outreach manager, He says an incident near the same campground occurred at dawn Sunday when a camper reported a bear take a swipe at him inside a tent. The camper was struck on the head, but not injured. Hunters were dispatched then, too, but did not find the animal.
Root stressed that the bear was likely not looking to make a human being his prey, but was probably attracted by the smell of food.
"He wasn't trying to get a kid; he probably smelled something" in the tent, on the boy's sleeping bag, or on the boy himself, Root said.