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Bear Attacks - Guidelines For Those Of You Hiking Or Camping In Our Wilderness

Copyright (c) 2007-2023

There seems to be a significant increase in both grizzly and black bear attacks the last couple of years. Not long ago a man in his sixties was attacked by a black bear near Winnipeg, Manitoba while picking plums. Residents there said there had been a number of bears around and there was a serious shortage of food for them. Competition for food may have provoked the attack. On the same weekend, an experienced hiker, a woman, was killed in Banff National Park by a grizzly and it resulted in trail closures in the area for some time.

A woman and her father from California were attacked in Glacier National Park by a grizzly sow with cubs. In an attempt to escape the bear, both tumbled over a small cliff and sustained injuries both from the bear and the fall. Pictures shown on the news showed that the man had sustained serious injuries that included scalping by the bear. The same happened this week to a boy that ran into a bear near Burns Lake northwest of Prince George while walking with a friend and his dog. It was a surprise close range encounter and the boy apparently was picked up by his head and thrown by the bear. He sustained scalp injuries and a broken leg while his friend ran for help. The boy's father said they commonly see bears around their ranch but this is the first time an incident in meeting a bear has been this serious. Another very serious attack occurred just recently in the States where the man received grievous injury to his head and bite marks on his body.

What has caused such an unusual number of attacks by both grizzlies and black bears lately? Bears rely heavily on plentiful and calorie rich feed to build up fat reserves for winter hibernation. A bear with insufficient reserves will die or be forced to exit their den in mid winter or early spring in search of food that will be hard to find that time of year. An interruption in their hibernation cycle could also result in their death.

The voracious hunt for food in the fall is a deep seated instinct and competition for food sources, even with humans, can result in attack on anything perceived to be a competitor. Unusual weather cycles or drought can seriously deplete normally bountiful food sources. The other cause can be a sow protecting her cubs, especially first year cubs. These two types, the rogue bear and the sow, are joined by a third type. This is a predator bear. One that is unable to eat or find food because of aged teeth, degraded eyesight or an injury impairing its ability to search out the food it needs or one that has simply found humans to be easy targets.

SURVIVING BEARS - Avoidance and survival of attack by the first of the three types of bear:

It's the opinion of many of those that study bears, that attacks on humans are led by three different types of bear regardless whether they are grizzly or black bear. And as such, we should all use different modes of protecting ourselves for maximum survival in case of an attack.

Although I don't have figures, I think the majority of attacks on humans are by sows with cubs either where the person got between a bear and her cubs unintentionally or came on them suddenly and surprised the sow. A sow is always ready to go on the offensive to protect her cubs because it is not uncommon for a boar or male bear to kill them. She must be strong, mean, fast and take the offensive quickly in order to take her opponent; hence the lightning quick attack that occurs on humans more often than not.

Authorities on the subject say this is one of those occasions where you should back up as fast as you can away from the cubs, run in the other direction as quickly as possible, especially if the cubs are quite young, or in the worst case scenario, roll up in a ball, protect your extremities and head and be as non threatening as possible when attacked.

It is thought that a mother bear has only one motive in attacking a human when she has young cubs and that is to drive the threat away. As soon as that is accomplished, she will take them and leave. The rare exception to this rule, and it is very rare, has been when a sow chooses to teach full-grown cubs how to hunt domestic animals or humans. However, now you are talking about a predator bear that just happens to be a mom as well and since there is more than one animal involved, the most dangerous threat of all.

Even a small single black bear sow such as the one in the picture on the right with her tiny cub can be deadly. I took a picture of her in Tweedsmuir Park along Highway 20 in the Bella Coola Valley where she and her cub were feeding on berries along the road. She crossed the road in front of us after tiring of the berry supply on one side and proceeded to chow down on the other with no fear of us at all. She must have been bred quite young because although she was in good shape, she wasn't much bigger than a large dog. Yet she could kill a human in a flash! What could set her off and make her so dangerous?

No fear of humans.

She's going into winter so she's desperate to get as much high calorie food into her as possible in order to survive hibernation.

She has a first year cub with her.

Chances are that most of the time she would just run if she felt threatened, but there is no way I would want to be caught between her and her cub, even as small as she is. I definitely would not want to be caught between that grizzly sow and her two cubs in the picture to your right. The best bet when dealing with the possibility of running into a sow and cubs is to make lots of noise warning her that you are in the area by either whistling, singing or wearing a bell on your shoes.

If you can't make noise, such as when you are hunting, stay very aware of your surroundings making sure to look around to the sides, look ahead and up trees for any possibility of cubs. Caution and constant awareness is always recommended in bear country, even if that happens to be in your own pasture or back yard, and it never hurts to carry a can of bear spray in the woods or firecrackers near salmon rivers. I will cover the rogue bear and predator bear, how to spot them, and suggested ways to defend yourself against them, in the next four articles.

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Jane Baker writes daily articles about the remote Chilcotin area in west central British Columbia, Canada. Surrounded by numerous glacial mountain ranges, alpine lakes teeming with wild Rainbow Trout, and full of wildlife, living here goes from no running water or electricity to spacious log homes with all the conveniences and without the smog! To learn more about vacationing here check out

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This is about a remote area in west central British Columbia, Canada called the West Chilcotin. Since we have a high density of both black and grizzly bear, this series of articles is intended to help give you an idea of what you are dealing with when vacationing in our area.

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Internal ID: #4572

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