Black bear attacks are not new stories in bear countries. Even though black bears avoid confrontations, they can attack humans. But how common are these attacks?
Here’s what you should know!
Black bear attacks on humans are not very common, but they do happen. The U.S. Wildlife Service reported that there have been 2 fatal black bear attacks each year in North America since 2000.
The record also found that non-fatal attacks are even less common. A person is more likely to be struck by lightning than to be attacked by black bears.
Understanding the rate and circumstances at which black bears attack humans is very important.
Hence, we’ll take a more detailed look at the statistics of these attacks and how they’ve occurred in the past.
Keep reading below!
Table of Contents
- Black Bear Attack – Statistics
- 5 Top Countries With the Most Black Bear Attacks
- Do Black Bears Like to Attack People?
- How Will a Black Bear Attack a Human?
- Why Would a Black Bear Attack You?
- Why Are They Not as Common as Other Types of Bears?
- What Months Are Black Bears More Aggressive?
- How To Stay Safe in a Black Bear Country
- What To Do If You Encounter a Black Bear
Black Bear Attack – Statistics
According to the U.S. National Park Service, there have been 118 fatal black bear attacks on humans in North America between 1900 and 2020.
The majority of these incidents (92%) happened in the United States, while the remaining 8% occurred in Canada.
Over time, the rate of fatal black bear attacks has generally decreased. It reduced to an average of 0.67 deadly attacks per year in the 2010s compared to 1.2 per year in the 1990s.
However, it is important to note that non-fatal attacks may be increasing. This is because of human invasion of bear habitat and a growing human population.
Here are a few cases of black bear attacks that happened both in the past and present:
- The most harmful black bear attack in the history of the U.S.A. happened in Alaska in 2015. This attack resulted in 6 dead bodies and two injuries.
- In 2021, there were four fatalities resulting from black bear attacks in the United States. Two of these incidents occurred in Alaska, while the other two were in the lower 48 states.
- Additionally, there were 44 non-fatal black bear attacks in 2021. And 31 out of them occurred in Alaska while 13 in the lower 48 states.
- The most recent deadly attack in the United States took place in June 2023. In this attack, a 72-year-old woman was killed while hiking in Yellowstone National Park.
How Many Black Bear Attacks Are There in a Year?
The number of black bear attacks on humans varies each year. However, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says there are 1 – 2 fatal attacks per year in North America.
Non-fatal attacks are even less common, with an estimated 20 to 30 incidents occurring in the United States annually.
What State Has the Most Black Bear Attacks?
Alaska has experienced the most black bear attacks on humans. The state has recorded 39 fatalities between 1900 and 2020.
This is likely due to the large population of black bears. Alaska is home to about 100,000 black bears, and they are scattered all over the state.
In addition, the remote nature of the state contributes to this too. There are a lot of wilderness areas where humans and black bears can come in close contact.
In these remote areas, hikers, hunters, and fishermen are the most likely victims.
What Time of the Year Are Black Bear Attacks Most Common?
Black bear attacks are most common during the warmer months of the year (Summer and Spring).
This is because black bears are more active during this time of the year.
During the summer months, black bears are actively looking for food to save up for hibernation since there is plenty of food available.
Likewise, people in bear countries take advantage of the nice weather to camp, hike, and explore new areas.
5 Top Countries With the Most Black Bear Attacks
The United States
Black bear attacks are most common in the United States. On average, the U.S.A. accounts for 1–2 fatal attacks every year.
These attacks usually take place in Alaska, Montana, and Wyoming.
Canada is the second black bear attack-prone country. On average, 2–3 people are killed by black bears each year.
Most of these incidents occur in British Columbia, Alberta, and Manitoba.
In Russia, there are usually 1-2 fatal black bear attacks annually. These incidents usually occur in the Kamchatka Peninsula and the Ural Mountains.
Finland records 1 fatal black bear attack yearly on average. Most of these incidents take place in the Lapland area of the country.
Sweden has an average of 1 fatal black bear attack per year. Most of these attacks occur in the Norrland region.
Do Black Bears Like to Attack People?
No, black bears do not like to attack people. They are shy, and scared, and will try to stay away from humans if they can.
However, these bears are unpredictable. They may attack if they are frightened or see a person as a threat to their cubs.
How Will a Black Bear Attack a Human?
Black bears rarely attack at sight, without warning. And killing humans on the spot is very possible, but rare.
These are bears that try to avoid confrontation as much as possible. But when they do attack humans, they can get pretty brutal.
In some cases, they can leave you seriously injured. And sometimes they could kill you. Still, it’s rare for black bears to eat humans.
In addition, black bears are known to warn humans, primarily by bluff-charging. They’ll charge at you and then stop suddenly.
And they aim to scare you. Besides, it’s a warning you should take seriously.
Funny enough, you can’t tell if a bear is truly charging or just bluff charging. Of course, you can’t remain there and assume the bear will stop at some point.
Why Would a Black Bear Attack You?
Black bears can become aggressive and attack you because of the following reasons:
When They Feel Threatened
Black bears have an excellent sense of smell and hearing, but their vision is not so great. This means they may not be aware that you are coming close to them.
The situation can frighten them and make them perceive you as a threat to them. Thus, making them attack in self-defense.
This can happen when people hike without making any noise or entering areas with limited light.
In addition to that, black bear attacks can occur if a person comes too close to them without warning.
When They are Protecting Their Cubs and Territory
Mama bears are overly protective of their cubs. They will not think twice to attack if they sense any danger coming to their children.
This could happen if someone gets between a mother black bear and her cubs or if a person gets too close to their den.
If They are Hungry
Black bears are opportunistic feeders and will eat anything they can find, including human food. If a black bear smells food on you, it can attack in an attempt to get the food.
Why Are They Not as Common as Other Types of Bears?
Black bears are the most common species of bear in North America, but they are not as common as other types of bears. Here are a few reasons why:
Black Bears Are Less Aggressive Than Other Bears
Black bears are usually less aggressive and more shy than grizzly bears or polar bears. They are more likely to run away when they encounter humans than to confront them.
These creatures are also tolerant of human presence, and try to stay away from confrontations if they can.
This reduces their chances of having conflicts with people and makes their attacks less common. In addition, they are less likely to be hunted for their fur or meat.
They Have Larger Habitats And Diets
Black bear attacks are less common because they are adaptable and can tolerate a broader range of temperatures.
They can survive in a variety of environments, from forests to mountains and even suburban areas.
Their diet mainly consists of vegetation, nuts, berries, insects, and small animals. This means they are less likely to compete with humans over food resources.
They Avoid Humans Unlike Others Bears
Black bears usually try to stay away from people and places where humans live. They prefer to search for food in places that are far away from people.
When they come across humans, they do their best to run away or find a way out instead of being aggressive.
This is different for other bears, such as grizzly or polar bears which will likely stand their ground and defend themselves.
What Months Are Black Bears More Aggressive?
Black bears are not generally aggressive toward people, but they can be more aggressive in spring (March, April, May) and fall (September, October, and November).
In the spring, black bears are coming out of hibernation and are looking for food. They become more aggressive if they are hungry or a person threatens them.
As the fall approaches, black bears are stocking up on fat in preparation for hibernation. They become more aggressive these months if they are protecting their food sources.
How To Stay Safe in a Black Bear Country
If you’re looking to spend some time in an area where black bears live, it’s important to take the necessary steps to ensure your safety.
Here are a few tips to help you out:
Make Noise While Hiking or Camping
When you’re out hiking or camping in bear country, it’s a good idea to make some noise. If you make some noise while you’re out, it’ll help alert them about your presence.
Moreover, it will reduce the chances of a surprise encounter. You can sing, clap, or just talk loudly to make some noise.
Travel in Groups
It’s best to travel with a group of friends or family members while camping. Black bears are less likely to approach a larger group than just one person.
Above all, it’s safer when you stick together.
Take Bear Spray With You
Bear spray is a special kind of pepper spray made to scare bears away. It can help stop a black bear that is coming towards you, giving you a chance to escape.
Before you go hiking, make sure you learn how to use it properly.
Store Food Properly
Black bears have an excellent sense of smell and are drawn to food. To keep your food secure, store it in a bear-proof container or hang it on a tree away from your campsite.
Don’t Run During an Encounter
If you come across a black bear, don’t run. Running can cause the black bear to chase you. Instead, move away slowly while facing the bear and speaking in a low voice.
What To Do If You Encounter a Black Bear
If you spot a black bear, don’t panic. These animals are usually shy, so there’s no need to worry.
Here are a few precautions to take:
- Make yourself look bigger by stretching out your arms or wearing a large coat.
- Move slowly and sideways.
- Don’t climb a tree, as black bears are skilled climbers.
- Face the bear directly.
- Play some loud music or bang some pots and pans together to scare the bear
- If the black bear won’t leave, use bear spray if you have one.
- If the bear becomes aggressive and attacks you, then fight back with weapons like stones and sticks.
Can You Survive a Black Bear Attack?
Yes, surviving a black bear attack is possible since fatal attacks are rare. Although black bear attacks rarely happen, they can be deadly.
There are many documented cases of people who have survived black bear attacks. Nonetheless, the outcome depends on a few factors such as:
- The bear’s behavior,
- The size and strength of the person,
- The presence of other people or deterrents
If you ever find yourself in this situation, fight back with any available weapons you can see around you.
What Bears Attack Humans the Most?
Grizzly bears attack humans the most. They are responsible for most human deaths with twice the number that black bears have caused.
The National Park Service reports that, on average, 1-2 people have been killed by bears in the U.S. every year since 2000. And out of these attacks, half are caused by grizzly bears.
Studies have found that the reason for this is grizzly mothers protecting their cubs.
In conclusion, black bear attacks are not common, but they happen. Many cases have been reported with Alaska being the most attacked state globally.
These attacks are most common during summer and spring. During these times, black bears are actively looking for food.
Black bears are shy and do not like confrontations. However, they can attack when you take them by surprise or they are trying to protect their cubs.
However, their attacks are not as common as other bear attacks because:
- They are less aggressive bears
- They have a broader range of food and habitat
- They prefer to stay away from humans
Nevertheless, take caution when you’re in their territory. To be on the safe side, apply the tips and precautions listed in this article. Better safe than sorry!
Now you’ve learned how common and deadly a black bear attack can be. But are they anything like their deadly cousins ‘’Brown Bears?
Read our article ‘’ Are Brown Bears More Dangerous than Black Bears ’’ to learn more.