Update: Utah wildlife biologist accidentally hit with bear tranquilizer dart released from hospital

Photo Courtesy: LifeFlight

BOOK CLIFFS, Utah, March 15, 2017 (Gephardt Daily) — A Utah Division of Wildlife Resources biologist has been released from hospital after accidentally receiving a dose of tranquilizer that was meant for a bear, officials said Wednesday.

The incident happened in the remote Book Cliffs area of eastern Utah, which is 60 miles south of Vernal, according to a news release from the Utah DWR.

At approximately noon Tuesday, seven DWR personnel were visiting bear dens, and located that of a female bear, called a sow, that had given birth to two cubs during the winter of 2015 into 2016.

“We were curious to see if the cubs had survived,” said Dax Mangus, regional wildlife manager for the DWR, in the prepared statement.

The sow had excavated a den under a large rock on a steep hillside in a canyon.”We successfully darted the collared female and noticed one yearling bear also in the den with her,” Mangus added. “We loaded another dart, and were ready to dart the yearling, when the dart accidentally discharged and struck the biologist in his hand.”

Life Flight was dispatched and about 2:45 p.m., the helicopter arrived and the biologist was flown to Utah Valley Hospital, formerly Utah Valley Regional Medical Center, in Provo, where he was treated.

The biologist, a 20-year veteran with the DWR, was released from the hospital Wednesday morning and is resting and recovering with his family, the news release said.

The DWR monitors the annual survival and reproduction rate of black bears by tracking bears that biologists have placed radio collars on, the news release added. Once the collars are placed, biologists can use radio telemetry equipment to locate the bears’ winter dens. After locating the dens, biologists dart and tranquilize the bears, check their general body condition, replace worn radio collars and look for cubs.

DWR personnel are trained to respond when working with wildlife chemical immobilization drugs, the news release added, and of the seven DWR personnel who were present, five of them completed the agency’s annual wildlife chemical immobilization training two weeks ago.

“We acted on our training,” Mangus said. “We noted the time of injection, the dosage received and then we started monitoring his condition. We knew 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. And, in the steep, timbered canyon, we knew we couldn’t safely land a medical helicopter. So, we made a plan.”

The biologists divided themselves into teams and immediately sent the biologist and two others to the top of the ridge where they could get cell service to call for help and where a helicopter could safely land. “We also sent two individuals back to get our vehicles,” Mangus added. “The remaining two employees gathered up all the equipment and then headed to the top of the ridge where the biologist was.”

Mangus said the biologist hiked to the top of the ridge under his own power, but then he started to feel weak. “We had him sit in the shade, gave him water to sip and kept him engaged and alert,” he says. “As soon as we had cell service, we notified police dispatch and gave a GPS location so they could send a medical helicopter to transport the biologist to a hospital for treatment.

“We feel fortunate that we were able to develop a quick response to the incident and get appropriate medical help in a timely manner, despite being in such a remote location,” Mangus added. “We’re so happy that he’s going to be OK. He’s an awesome co-worker and a great friend.”

“This experience is a good example of the risks our biologists often take, to manage and protect wildlife in Utah,” said Mike Canning, assistant DWR director. “We’re so thankful that he’s OK and that he’s back home with his family.”

The biologist’s name has not been released.



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