Two hikers near Yellowstone were charged by a mother grizzly bear defending her cubs, and later that day two land management workers were bit by another grizzly. In Michigan, 12-year-old Abigail Wetherell was mauled by a black bear while jogging. Most recently on Saturday, a hunter was attacked by a brown bear in the remote Alaskan wilderness.
The string of attacks leaves many fearful and wondering why.
Bear incidents typically rise as summer turns into fall. As the summer cools down, bears across the country are preparing to hibernate during the cold months. Preparation requires gaining a lot of fat and body weight in order to survive the winter months without ever leaving their den. Now is the time of year that bears desperately search for food.
However, hibernation season doesn’t account entirely for increases in bear encounters. Officials at Yosemite National park note a 64 percent increase in bear encounters over this time last year.
But preparing to hibernate is far from the only reason. As bears lose more and more of their natural habitat to human settlers and tourist destinations, they’re forced to hunt and forage for food in areas where humans live. Video footage from a camera strapped to a bear features the bear foraging for food in garbage cans only feet away from people’s homes.
Luckily, all six victims of bear attacks are in stable condition and expected to survive. Despite an increase in bear encounters and the animals’ overpowering strength, fatal bear attacks in North America are rare.
How To Survive A Bear Attack
General guidelines for minimizing injuries sustained one are to stay calm, keep quiet, and don’t run. Screaming and running signal that you are prey; instead, speaking in a soft monotone voice, waving your arms, and walking slowly signal that you are a human in control.
Grizzly bears can outrun human beings, so hikers are advised to walk away slowly and calmly, or simply play dead. Park officials in Yellowstone advised hikers to drop to the ground and play dead, which the hikers attacked last week followed.
People venturing into bear territory are advised to carry bear spray, which is essentially pepper spray. Studies have shown that carrying bear spray can reduce the chances of death in the event of an attack.
Lastly, once the bear attack is over, don't immediately jump up and down to celebrate. Wait until the bear is far from the scene, then run for help.