More People Plus More Bears Equals More Bear Attacks

Aug. 30, 2011 | Northwest News Network
Jessica Robinson

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  • A grizzly bear in a field at Yellowstone National Park. credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
A grizzly bear in a field at Yellowstone National Park. | credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service | rollover image for more

Wildlife experts say bear attacks are rising - but then, so is the number of people in bear country. Yellowstone National Park officials confirmed that a grizzly bear killed a hiker from Michigan. That’s the second grizzly-caused death in the park this summer.

According to the Montana-based Center for Wildlife Information, run-ins with grizzly and black bears have increased in the last 20 years in North America. To some degree, that’s expected. Bear populations have dramatically increased, and more people live and recreate in bear habitat now.

But bear experts worry that people have become complacent. Doug Zimmer does public education on bears at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service office in Lacey, Wash.


The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has been touring the Northwest in a “bearmobile” this summer, stopping at fairs and sporting goods stores to educate the public on bear safety. Photo by Doug Zimmer.

“Some people are very bear-educated and bear-savvy. Most people are not,” he says. “What I hear from people over and over again - and it’s very often when I’m talking to somebody who’s sitting on a gurney - they say, ‘Well we saw the bear and we wanted to get closer for a picture’ and it went downhill from there.”

Zimmer notes that on a per capita basis, attacks are still very rare.

On the Web:

National Park Service press release:

Encountering a bear:

Living and Recreating in Grizzly Bear Country

(This was first reported by the Northwest News Network.)

© 2011 Northwest News Network
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