Black bears that kill are uncommon
April 18, 2006
It’s impossible to imagine the horror of being attacked and killed by a bear. This past week a mother camping in Tennessee fought a bear as her youngest child was bitten and her terrified six year old ran away.
The child who ran was found a short while later, dead. The bear was fired upon but escaped into the forest, so as of now, no one knows if the animal was ill, injured or deranged. And the mother remains so traumatized she is unable to tell anyone if the children had food on them or were feeding the bear.
One thing is for certain, this was not a natural circumstance. It is extremely rare for black bears to attack people.
As soon as the news came out the BEAR League immediately received calls from people who were panicked over this horrific occurrence. We all know there are a lot of bears here in Truckee/Tahoe and some people believe this sets the stage for a tragedy that is bound to play out.
One man called to say he is worried about the lives of his four young children and has therefore decided to sell his summer cabin and not return to this area. In hopes he will reconsider I shared important and factual data with him to put his mind at ease and allow him to see the danger in its proper perspective.
For each person killed by a black bear, 147 people die from being attacked by a dog, over 400 people die from bee stings, and 90,000 human beings are murdered at the hands of other people.
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It’s also mandatory for us to understand the differences between bears from other areas. Recent scientific studies have proven that bears who live in close proximity to numerous people, such as here in Truckee/Tahoe, are far less likely to attack or injure anyone. Bears who live in remote wilderness areas, such as the expansive forest where this killing took place, quite possibly have never had any contact with human beings and don’t know what we are. They may therefore mistake us for prey.
Our bears here in the Tahoe Basin know full well what we are; they see us every day. We are not food, we are their neighbors.
Most bear attacks occur in remote areas and are oftentimes the result of someone surprising a bear and then running from him. This is why we constantly remind everyone not to run from a bear and to pick up small children who may have the tendency to run. And we preach ceaselessly to our residents and visitors about the importance of making noise when hiking and of coaching kids to talk, sing, whistle or whatever is noisy while outside playing. We do this as an extra precaution. Many times we’ve been called after a visitor encountered a bear only to be told they didn’t know what to do and they ran away in one direction while the bear ran five times as fast the opposite way.
Dr. Lynn Rogers, the most knowledgeable black bear expert in the world, has studied this species of bear for more than 30 years and believes there exists the occasional but extremely rare black bear with an incomprehensible killing tendency. He equates this to the human murderer or serial killer. This deranged trait is much more prevalent in humans, however, and this is why we hear of people killing people every day and only know of black bears killing 56 people in the last 100 years in all of North America.
As human beings, we BEAR League members are extremely distraught over the death of this innocent child. We hope the bear who is responsible will be found so tests can be conducted and so there will be no possibility of another attack. The chance of finding him lessens as time passes and because there is no way to know who the guilty bear is, unless he kills again.
Our heartfelt sympathy goes to the family and to the child who was injured. Our distress is eased only by the fact that no black bear in California or Nevada has ever killed a human being in all of recorded history. We hope such a horror never occurs and we vow to continue to educate our human friends about bears in order to keep both species safe.