Bear attacks on the rise


A thought-provoking comment I received on an old post last night, from a Blog reader in BC, has prompted me to place the bear attack theories up for discussion.

What do you think about bears and bear attacks? Can they be avoided? Are they on the rise? What should be done about it?

Here is Larry Norman’s message regarding the number of bear maulings in the west recently:

Hi Jeff:

I am writing a article and wondering what are your thoughts on recent bear attacks in B.C.?

 I have been an avid outdoors person and all my encounters with bears and cubs have always been good outcomes. Common sense often dictated course of action which respected the unpredictable nature of bears and no surprise by each party…but maulings and attacks as presented by recent mainstream media seem to think its a re-occurring or prevalent problem.

Don’t get me wrong Bears will take the path of least resistance when he has a taste for human food or garbage…and I understand such “problem bears” can be viewed as a public safety concern and destroyed as any wildlife threat to humans that come into conflict….I think I want to write an article that for as many bears there are in B.C. the majority are not as conflictual in the maulings or those killed by a blk or grizzly bear….Just thought I would get your thoughts prior to writing and if I can, I will let you preview what I have written should I quote you. thank you.


Larry Norman


This was my response:

Hello Mr. Norman, thanks for your message.

Yes, there certainly have been a number of recent attacks in the west. The 72-year old Lillooet woman has just been confirmed as being killed by at least one black bear, and another man survived a grizzly attack in BC’s central coast. I also read about another serious black bear attack in Arizona and of course, a 57-year old man was fatally attacked and a woman injured in Yellowstone earlier this week.

Although the number of recent bear maulings might indicate a ‘trend’ or some sort of rise in negative bear encounters, this time of year typically sees an increased number of grizzly and black bear maulings. From spring to late summer is the ‘high season’ for bear attacks, if you look at the statistics, and there are lots of stats out there to pore over.

As you mentioned, however, the majority of bear encounters in BC and across North America for that matter, do not end in an attack. Yes, there are a number of attacks each year some of which could have been avoided, while most in my opinion are simply unavoidable.

The 57-year man killed in Yellowstone this week by a mother grizzly with cubs is -contrary to popular belief, an extremely rare occurrence. Although sow bear attacks do occur, most if any are ever fatal. Mother bears are usually more intent on scaring you away or sending out a message not to mess with her and her young.

Male bears, on the other hand, carry with them a different intent and therefore are more of a danger to humans. Predatory bear attacks are the most common ‘fatal attack’ and occur with both black bears and brown bears(grizzly). Some have suggested that the ‘smaller salmon runs’ may be the root of some western attacks, while we always hear the story of ‘a poor berry crop this year’ as the root of many black bear encounters in the east.

The truth of the matter is that some bears, especially those in more remote areas, do occasionally target humans as their prey and when that happens you had better watch out. All the best camping and food storage techniques in the world will not protect you in bear country with a predatory male bear in the vicinity.

Take myself for example, I have been hunting and fishing in bear country for more than 30 years and though I have seen many bears in the wild, all but one went the other way immediately. I did have one male bear charge me in QC years ago, when there was no apparent reason for it. He was not pressured or cornered and had plenty of room for escape, but he instead chose to charge at me. In all likelihood, it will never happen again. I am statistically a lot more likely to be injured driving to work in the morning.

So, to answer your question about bear attacks on the rise, yes in some regions there tends to be more than others, and some years we see more incidents than other years. The year 2005, for example, was a record-setting year for bear attacks in NA and I can recall writing many articles on the subject at the time; putting forth a host of theories as to why so many people were getting mauled. In some cases bear numbers were on the increase, but really there was no hard and fast rule to explain the high numbers of deaths that year.

Ursus, as we all know, are top-level predators and omnivores with a voracious appetite. As long as we travel and spend time in bear country, there will forever be attacks and unfortunately fatal maulings.

The best we can do, if we wish to continue travelling and spending time in bear country, is to educate ourselves and be prepared for it.

Larry, I wish you luck with your article and invite you to post it here at the Outdoors Guy Blog.

Best regards,


41 thoughts on “Bear attacks on the rise”

    1. Thanks Rob, and call me a sicko but I’ve visited that site many times over the years!

      Yes, good point, the number of people travelling in bear country at this time of year will certainly have a huge effect on the stats.


  1. Nice write-up.
    I used to have a bit of a phobia with bears when camping out on land (as opposed to islands.) Whenever possible, I prefer to camp on islands for the protection and peace fo mind. I must say though, I no longer lose sleep over camping in bear territory. Some of my camp/canoe buddies still refuse to stay anywhere else than on islands.
    What would be your recommendation for defense and protection of bears?
    I think I’ve written about this last year on another of your posts… rather than hang my food up in a tree to make it inaccessible to bears, and spread the smell over a much larger area, I prefer to leave out away from camp and place empty cans on top and around it to alert us with the noise. I also always make a lot of noise when hiking. Either talking loud with a friend, or if I’m alone, I’ll yell once in a while, and I’ll grab a walking stick on the ground and bang on tree trunks every now and then. I also carry a good knife and sometimes a small axe to throw. That’s it. I don’t carry a gun (although many would suggest it), and I’m not overly worried about it. Then, common sense plays a huge part. If I see a bear, I go the other way.

    1. Well GPG, keep in mind I certainly don’t profess to be any big bear expert, but it sounds like you’re one of the few people who does everything right.

      Most folks wouldn’t even give those details a second thought. The only thing I might add would be storing food away in truck of a vehicle if possible..but truthfully, all the best storage in world wont keep you from an attack sometimes, when its YOU who’s actually the target!

      Take the older couple in Algonquin Park in the early 90’s that time and I’ve written about this on several occasions. They were attacked, killed and partially devoured shortly after returning to their campsite with a bag full of groceries – including meat and snacks. The groceries had not been touched by the time authorities arrived.

      When it comes to a lone predatory male, sometimes I don’t think it really makes a difference what you do, well; except for defend yourself at all costs!


  2. You know, that’s one thing I never consider, where the bear targets ME… Scary when you think about it. I’m not sure what I would do in that situation, except try to kill the bear, before he kills me.

    1. GPG, I can tell you that when we tent in NW QC’s bear country in early May, there’s a (legally-licensed & registered) firearm stored under the cot, just in case.

      Not that I would condone the use of firearms as bear protection (got in trouble by law enforcement for that one time) I would always first suggest the use of bear spray as a good deterrant..which we also carry whenever walking the backwoods trails.


  3. Jeff: re using a gun vs spray … there’s a saying “I’d rather be judged by 12 than buried by 6” … that’s all the reason I have for carrying a firearm even in black bear country. I’ve heard many complaints about the spray not being effective against bears, and with a shift in the wind, it can be very effective against you. Bullets tend to go in the right direction even in a slight breeze.

    1. Rob, I agree 100%…unfortunately as I have found in the past, what I think and what I can write are not always one and the same.

      Although the officer said he ‘couldnt stop me from suggesting a legal firearm would be suitable protection when fishing in bear country’, he thought my suggestion might get a lot a people in trouble.

      The real irony of it was that following that newspaper article in the Spring of 2005, six people were killed by bears that summer – the worst year ever for fatal attacks.


      1. Further to that Rob, that is one thing I really like about the Blog format, there’s a lot more sharing of honest opinion.


  4. FYI if you’re in a provicial park you can not have a gun with you …. as per the law

    35. No person shall use or display a firearm in a provincial park other than,
    (a) a peace officer in the lawful execution of his or her duties;
    (b) an employee in the Ministry or an agent of the Ministry for the purpose of wildlife management and control;
    (c) a person lawfully hunting under the authority of subsection 9 (3) of the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act, 1997;
    (d) a person authorized by the superintendent to use or display a firearm in a provincial park. O. Reg. 347/07, s. 35.

    1. But Chessy, wouldnt (c) apply to anywhere? I mean, wouldn’t you need at leas

      I know in QC, we were told by a CO(Because we called them) that during the fishing season if we wish to have a gun with us at your campsite, we would at least require a small game license and have some small-game season open at the time. So, even though you are there to fish, you are also ‘lincensed to hunt small game’ and therefore permitted to have a firearm with you.

      Wouldn’t that apply to (c) as ‘lawfully hunting under the fish and wildlife conservation act, and could you not do the same in a Provincial Park, provided there is a small-game season
      open at the time..i.e coyotes for example.


  5. Interesting
    GPG, your wasting your time going to an island, bears are very good swimmers, and will sometimes live on an island if it’s big enough.
    Ever hear of Bates Island, in Algonquin Park
    read this

    bear attacks on humans are rare, but not unheard of, but then all it takes is one, and the more time you spend in areas where there are bears, the higher the odds.

    Bear spray works very effectively on bears, I’ve used it once when a bear wouldn’t leave us alone, and it shoots a very powerful stream of orange spray, probably 30-40 feet, however guns work even better. I fish in northern Quebec every summer and have had many bear encounters, none turned out to be particularly bad, usually the bears ran away, but most often they came back, sometimes within minutes. They seem to be afraid, then build up their nerve, but not always. We never bring a gun, but we sleep in a cabin.
    We flew into a lake called Esnagie (sic) near White River. There was garbage inside the camp left by previous fishermen. We put it in the outhouse because it stunk, then went fishing, when we got bag, guess who ripped the door off the outhouse. We tried everything to get rid of that bear including lighting a whole package of firecrackers that some Americans had left before us. Even the firecrackers didn’t scare this guy off, so eventually we used bear spray, it worked but the wind drifted towards us when we sprayed and my son and I got a small whiff of it. Trust me, it is very unpleasant. The bear hung around for our stay but stayed back at a reasonable distance. He also chewed our water line so we had no water in the camp The owners said they were going to send someone up to shoot it, don’t know if they did but I’ll tell you the 75 yard run from the boat to the cabin through cedar trees was a bit scary especially when we came in at night

    1. Iggy, that sounded like a very uncomfortable fishing trip to me, as evidently that bruin couldn’t take a hint. I mean, chances are he would not have turned on you, but just the fact that any normal fear of humans had been stripped away, meant that anything could happen.

      And if there’s one thing we all know about bears, they are unpredictable.

      I wouldn’t have wanted to be in that situation and especially if my kids were there with me. The outfitter or camp operator owes it to their clients to prevent such a thing from happening. We all know that some people are pigs and have no problem leaving garbage behind, but when you’re renting out hunting and fishing camps and work in the outfitting business, its your friggin job to ensure that each client is provided with a safe clean camp and equipment when you arrive. Uncleaned BBQ’s and garbage left behind is a real no no in bear country. I have another bear story I will share in a later post to exemplify this…

      Iggy, if that were me, I would have demanded an apology and a full refund! Failing that, I would dropped bad press on them until the cows came home.

      Sorry, but anyone who leaves clients in such a compromising position doesn’t deserve to be in business! Its fine that they were ‘supposedly’ going up afterward to shoot the bear, but the whole situation could have been avoided in the first place.


      1. Cleaning up after yourself while spending time outdoors can never be understated. It does not matter if you’re staying in a pup tent or 5 star camp.

        At our old moose camp in Temiscaminge QC many years ago, a fellow was staying there in the spring with his elderly uncle
        to do some trout fishing.

        In the middle of the night, the uncle heard some scratching sounds outside, and decided to get up to see what it was. Before he made it into the kitchen from the bunk area, a very large black bear had swiped his paw through the screened kitchen window!

        As the uncle stared in disbelief, the bear swiped his other paw at the window breaking out the glass and the remaining screen…by the time the nephew made it to the kitchen, the bear had his entire head and shoulders inside the camp!

        The quick-thinking nephew grabbed his rifle, placed the end of the barrel at the bear’s head and fired; just as the beast’s entire body rolled inside the camp. Two quick shots and it was over.

        The only thing they could think of which may have prompted the break in was a few scraps in the garbage can from the night before.

        Either that, or it wasn’t the garbage he was after.

        That spring bear weighed 400 pounds and was shot at point blank range. Can you imagine how big that bear would be in the fall?

        And what would have happened if they didn’t have a gun, its hard to say? Would pepper spray have worked, its hard to say?

        One thing for sure, any bear willing to tear its way inside your camp with you standing there, had some serious business in mind!


  6. Just a little bit of extra info on one of my bear experiences.
    First of all, it was Americans that were at the camp before us, and they were asked to leave the garbage inside and someone was supposed to come by and pick it up and I guess it got missed. They have a few camps on this lake and a lodge as well so they have a caretaker that does this but I could see how it could be missed. The reason I knew it was Americans is we can’t get those firecrackers in Canada any more.
    We got a great deal on the camp because the other adult that came in was the father of the pilot that flew us in, so they weren’t expecting anyone to be at the camp, it was a very last minute thing. Just a whole bunch of unforeseen circumstances came together.
    Funny story though, on our drive up we were comparing bear stories and my son in the back of the van was wide eyed.
    When we got there and flew in the first thing we wanted to do was go fishing, so we dropped off the garbage in the outhouse and away we went. When we came back it was just before dark and my son who was 9 at the time ran ahead to the cabin. He came running back and said “dad there is a bear”
    After all the talk on the way up about bears I thought he was kidding so I said “stop fooling around about bears”
    he said “no no Dad, there is a bear” once again I said “look, stop fooling around about bears”
    Well I always told my son that on these trips you’ll probably hear a little bad language so if you let the odd bad word slip I’ll forget about it but as soon as we hit the pavement the amnesty is over.
    So he says one more time, with emphasis and wide eyed ”
    “DAD, THERE REALLY IS A @#$%^&* BEAR” well I started to laugh
    that’s when I knew he was serious and as we walked closer to the camp we saw that big black ball of blubber.

    1. Good one Iggs…kids say the darndest things!

      Poor kid, after you had him all built up about bears and then he stumbles upon one in the outhouse. He must have thought that sort of thing happened all the time.

      Oh well, it still doesn’t beat my buddy Mark’s first fly-in trip. Talk about scarring a kid for life!

      It was a very remote camp in the Gouin reservoir. Shortly after he (who was about 12 at the time) arrived at the outpost camp with his uncle, the pilot fell sick and died right there at the supper table.

      With no way of communicating with the main camp, and no other planes coming in for 3 days, they were stuck with this dead body. Fortunately there was a very large walk-in fridge used for moose hunters and they dragged the poor fellow in there to stay cool.

      Since all the men were freaked out over the sight of a dead man, they made 12-year old Mark go into the big fridge every time they wanted a beer…and he had to step over the body each time.


  7. should have just flown the plane out for help 🙂

    I remember when I took my hunting course
    one of the things they teach you is if a person dies in the bush
    you leave him exactly where he died till you get help

    Doesn’t sound like a very good trip
    did they catch any fish?

    Speaking of fishing, just had a bunch of buddies come back from Dorval Lodge
    in Quebec, they said the walleye fishing was a little tough
    and another group of friends back from The Dumoine and they said it was great
    The big difference was it was the first time at Dorval Lodge
    but the 15th trip to Dumoine
    Three weeks and I’m off to The Dumoine
    we’ve had numerous bear encounters there too.

    1. Iggy, I’m sure if anyone there knew how to fly a float-plane, they would have done it gladly just to get out of there.

      Did my buddy enjoy good fishing at least?

      Well, I guess the fish Gods were shining down on him a a token gift for ‘dealing with death’ for 3 days, they presented him the biggest northern pike he has ever caught – a whopping 26 pounds!

      Although it has been more than 30 years since this happened, he still hasn’t caught a northern anywhere close to that..(a small token after stepping over a dead body for days)


  8. Wow, excellent stories!
    Iggy, I know bears are excellent swimmers, but I figure the swim might keep them from exploring the smell of garbage (or humans), or from even tracking that smell successfully. Also, there’s the possibility of hearing the bear swimming to island. I think another thing that is important to do whenever in bear country, is a thorough walk-around of the camp (or island). Again, I’ll be as noisy as possible, and see if I can find any signs of bear activity. But ultimately, you can’t ever be bear-proof.

  9. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard a bear walk, I haven’t, and I hunt them, they are like ghosts. Bears have a kind of flat foot with pads that make them able to walk through the bush almost silent and when they swim, like most animals, unless you see them, you won’t know they are there.
    I’ve found that hanging my food in a tree is the best way, and 100 yards or so downwind of my campsite. I don’t camp any more but when I did that’s how I handled it and never had an issue. The bears don’t really want anything to do with humans most times, they want your food, but sometimes the stomach thinks for the head.
    We used to bring fireworks and let them off after dark hoping that it would scare any bears out of coming around and the smell of the powder would linger. I know whenever we shoot a moose and have to leave all or part of it in the bush overnight, we always leave spent shells and a worn t-shirt or two at the kill site and we’ve never had a bear eat any of it even with the smell of the gut pile, but the next day after we get the quarters out of there it’s not uncommon for the whole area to be cleaned up and the bigger body parts to be dragged away.
    However, spent shells and t-shirts don’t slow down the big birds like Eagles and Ravens

    1. Iggy that is one very interesting observation and is dead true!

      During my first black bear hunt 12 years ago, the silence thing really blew me away. Black bears are very much like black ghosts – hence the name of the article I wrote for the Quebec Hunting & Fishing brochure at the time:

      That story is still available online at Sportsman’s if anyone is interested.


  10. well I hunt them barely 18 yards off the bait, and they usually get within twenty five or thirty yards of me before I know they are there and it’s only because I see movement, not because of sound. Last year IceKing and I were up in trees side by side, he was filming, and one popped up right beside us, within ten yards, he didn’t know we were there, we didn’t know he was there. They truly are amazing animals in their own territory

    1. Yes, they are amazing Iggy and especially on their own turf, as you say!

      You’re lucky to be hunting them as often as you do. Sadly, there never seems to be enough time for hunting. That’s why I enjoy living vicariously through others like yourself.


    1. Thanks was one the most memorable hunts my Dad and I ever went on actually…he was there as a cameraman.

      We met a bunch of Americans that trip from all over the place; including some other journalists and enjoyed a lot of great QC home cooking and some awesome fishing as well. The guide took us to great walleye and northern lakes and we had a blast during the day!


  11. might miss the hunt this year, unless I hunt them around here, I could go to my hunt camp in Dacre but because it’s 2 hours away the baiting is an issue

  12. just found some relatively fresh scat in the front yard … guess my friend made it up here

    1. Rob, I would suspect he ‘made it up to the front’ awhile ago, that scat doesn’t appear to be that fresh…although it could just be the photo.

      Looks like you’ve got lots of cedar and hemlock on your property, based in the ground litter in the photo.


  13. Ya its not too new, but that section was cleared by the wife and I in the past few weeks and is on top of cuttings, she found it this aft when she went out again with the clearing saw.

    1. Well Rob, that brush makes a great ‘time stamp’..I guess he has been around. How far from the house is that?


  14. 4-500 feet … thats in our potato field adjacent the road

    I’m thinking since it’s been parched in the sun that accounts for the dryness of the outside … a bit of work with the random sticks on the ground broke it apart and still had a good smell to it along with moisture inside

    1. And if I recall Rob, bear scat is different from deer and moose pellets which dries from the inside out. I demonstrated that to a hunting buddy of mine once, after he noted the fresh deer droppings.

      Once I broke them apart, they were all dry on inside. The outside was moist only from rain the night before. The inside is where to look!

      Since we’re talking about sh*t, I’d be interested to know if bear scat works the opposite way..not that I really want to be digging through bear droppings.


  15. if you want to know how fresh it is,
    pick some up, break it apart
    stick it on your tongue
    chew it
    if it’s salty
    it’s fresh
    if it’s dry and tastes bad
    look for fresher stuff

  16. Thats the thing bout living on a farm … poops a big part of the business. I’ll head out after supper and take some pics of bits broke in half so you guys can see what it looks like.

  17. ya that’s not cool igg … but it has a good smell to it that ya can tell from a distance so it can’t be that old in any event

    at least the coyote poop in the back yard is dry and crumbled under my boot … haven’t found any fresh stuff so that’s a huge plus

Comments are closed.