Bear Attacks! Not The Usual Suspects
By Todd Helms
The headlines over the past months have been seemingly loaded with bear attacks and incidents involving bears. Surprisingly, it’s been mostly black bears as well. This is quite different from the norm as it seems big brother Grizz gets in the most trouble. Here’s a little breakdown of incidents from just the last few weeks. . .
- Colorado – two incidents involving black bears: one – a bear bit a man who was relaxing in a hammock. Two, an 82 year old woman dissuaded a breaking and entering bruin trapped in her mudroom by giving it a stout shove. Both folks were treated for injuries from the incidents
- Earlier in the summer an Arizona man was stalked, killed and partially eaten by a black bear.
- Last week a Montana man killed a bear inside his home. The black bear had broken in and the man dispatched it with a handgun.
- Recently in Idaho, IDFG agents killed a sow black bear and her cub in Victor. The bear had attacked a resident when he opened his garage door.
- Over the course of the summer WYGFD officers trapped, relocated and killed multiple black bears in the Sheridan, Wyoming area.
Those are ALL black bear incidents!
There have of course been a couple grizzly issues as well – a Wyoming surveyor was mauled by a grizzly near Dubois recently. The man’s injuries were treated and it was deemed the bear wasn’t a significant threat to public safety so a hunt was not organized. WYFG also relocated a problem grizz in northwest Wyoming for public safety reasons.
So what’s the deal with all these marauding black bears raising cane? Here’s my dos pesos. . .
Colorado doesn’t manage their bears, or any other predator properly, they don’t hunt them hard enough! There’s too many bears and with a growing human population bears are put into conflict at increasing levels. Colorado needs to kill more bears, nuff said.
Arizona? That was a tragic incident where a bear’s predatory nature led it to view the man as an easy target and sadly, it did what predators do.
Montana, Wyoming and Idaho. . . other than the incidents around Sheridan (attributable to the explosion in human population) I think black bears have been forced out of suitable habitat by the burgeoning grizzly population, evidenced by grizzly sightings far from core areas recently. Grizz kill and eat black bears, so do wolves for that matter, and black bears have learned that being close to humans means more food and less exposure to dangerous grizzlies and wolves. I’m not a mathematician but I can add. . . food (1) + safety (1) = 2 (more black bears living around people)
Where’s my research you ask? It’s totally empirical and based on conversations and observances over the past few months.
My family and I spend as much time as possible outdoors, especially hunting, fishing and adventuring around our big backyard of Wyoming. This puts me in contact with other folks who enjoy the same activities and recently an awful lot of them have “bear stories”.
From camping neighbors losing a cooler of food to a black bear, the bear was later allegedly killed by other campers further down the drainage, to muddy black bear paw prints on the windows of popular mountain lodges and a veteran Forest Service Ranger recounting the recent and steep increase of bear problems in his 30 year career – one thing is apparent, black bear behavior has become more human-centric as of late.
I firmly believe this is directly related to the explosion of outdoor recreation during 2020 and 2021. There were a lot more people in the woods, some of them virtually living there. This increased trash and food waste and the bears learned to associate campsites with easy meals instead of dangerous humans. Not rocket science!
This modified behavior has led lots of bears to view people as either food or food sources all across the country as evidenced by the spiking incidence of black bear problems. Some locales bring it upon themselves, I’m talking about you New Jersey! Others are simply dealing with the fallout from Covid on black bear behavior.
All of this serves as a reminder that unless you’re taking steps to protect yourself in bear country (either black bear or grizzly) you’re asking for trouble. At the very least carry bear spray, at best carry a firearm you are proficient with.
Proficiency is key, not just thinking you are either. IF you’re going to rely upon a firearm for bear protection, set your ego aside and make sure you can actually, effectively use it!
With hunting seasons bearing down upon us (audible groan), all of this should serve as a reminder to be bear aware both afield and in camp. The Wyoming Game and Fish Department’s Bear Wise program is an excellent resource for reminders of bear country protocols.
Be safe out there and best of luck hunting this fall!