Bear survives hard fall from tree near downtown Salt Lake City

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A black bear who had ventured into a Salt Lake City neighborhood from the nearby mountains took a 20-foot tumble from a tree Wednesday morning after it was tranquilized by wildlife officials, who were unable to provide it a soft landing.

The 2-year-old male black bear perched above the tree-lined streets at the base of Utah's Capitol Hill took a hard fall onto the road below but survived. The state's Division of Wildlife Resources released the bear later Wednesday into a more ideal habitat in the mountains after the agency said it passed multiple health evaluations.

The young bear's urban adventure was cut short after wildlife officials shot it with tranquilizer darts, causing it to slip and fall on its climb down the tree, spokesperson Scott Root said. They had been working to set up a truck beneath the tree to help break its fall but could not secure it in time.

The city's fire department and parks division had provided trucks with ladders and buckets to assist in removing the bear from the tree, but they were unsuccessful, wildlife spokesperson Faith Heaton Jolley said.

“The ladders could not be deployed until the bear was tranquilized so that they didn’t scare the bear out of the tree,” she said.

Crews then loaded the bear into a tube-like cage, administered a fast-acting drug to reverse the effects of the tranquilizers and tagged its ear to track its location.

Residents had gathered just a few blocks north of downtown to watch officials capture the animal, and many winced as it hit the ground. Bears are resilient creatures and have recovered from falls in the few past instances where local officials were unable to catch them, Root said.

Black bears — the only bear species found in Utah — typically come out of hibernation in mid-March, but they are rarely spotted in the capital city despite its close proximity to the mountains, he said.

The bear, Jolley said, was likely searching for food and water away from the dry foothills.