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On the Rampage: 5 Bear Attacks in the U.S. in a Week

by Eric Conn   |  August 20th, 2013 18

Although bear attacks are a relatively rare occurrence, a string of incidents in the U.S. this last week has many people concerned.

Seven people have been attacked in five different states, including a 12-year-old girl in Michigan who was mauled while jogging. A hunter was also attacked in Alaska, where he spent 36 hours in Arctic National Park before search and rescue teams could locate him. Two researchers were charged by a grizzly in Idaho, two hikers were attacked by a sow at Yellowstone National Park and a camper was bitten in her tent in Colorado.

The Michigan girl, Abby Wetherell, was chased down by a black bear and suffered deep gashes to her legs and back while jogging on a trail near her grandparents’ home in Cadillac, Mich. Wetherell needed more than 100 stitches to close up her wounds but was still able to run back home after the attack. Wetherell said she thought it was the end for her.

“I was thinking, this is it, I am a goner,” she told ABC News Sunday. “All of a sudden, the bear stopped me and put me down on ground, scraping me and clawing me. So I was, like, petting it. I don’t know where that came from. But, I just thought maybe if I petted it, it would like me.

“Well, that did not work so, then it just got me again. And then I heard that you should play dead. So that’s what I did. And then it kind of went away and then it looked back and then it just took off.”

The rash of bear attacks this past week raises the question as to why so many have happened in a relatively short span of time. According to Harry Reynolds, vice president of the International Association for Bear Research and Management, it may just be a matter of happenstance.

“I think the recent attacks are circumstance and not any larger outside issue weighing into the attacks,” he told CNN. “In past years in Alaska, when there are berry failures, the bears may be more aggressive in looking for food. But this year was a good crop. I really think the recent bear attacks are just circumstance—people in the wrong time at the wrong place.”

While not typical, the rise in attacks also coincides with the summer months, which are prime time for tourists and outdoor enthusiasts. As more people venture into wilderness areas where bears live, it’s only logical that interactions would increase. If you need a few pointers on how to fend off a bear attack—or you just need a good laugh—there’s also one reporter’s attempt to demonstrate bear survival skills.

  • Thomas Holmes

    Wow – that girl is really lucky – I have researched bear attacks for years and black bears are more likely to kill and devour than grizzlies. Black bears seldom attack humans and are generally easy to scare off. But if you notice a black bear stalking you, then you should be prepared to fight it off. Living in the Midwest I never travel outdoors without a good easy to access knife and gun, and if in bear territory – MN, MI, WI then I always carry bear spray as well.

    • Stephanie Thigpin

      Actually you are much likelier to be attacked and killed by a human than all wildlife combined worldwide.

      • Thomas Holmes

        Yes – and I protect myself from the human animals as well as the beasts of the wild.

        • Stephanie Thigpin

          The only beast is man & the only beast I have ever had to protect myself from is man. And of course his un trained dogs.

          • Thomas Holmes

            That is because you do not venture outside of your comfy city existence – those of us who enjoy the outdoors and the wilderness often have encounters with wildlife – I have been fishing for salmon and encountered bears and wolves. Deer hunts often provide encounters with coyotes.When you are in God’s country you get to see all of God’s creatures and learn how they live and survive. Much more truth out there then you ever learn from your TV.

          • Stephanie Thigpin

            Your presumption makes you look and sound a fool. I am no “city girl”. Never have been. I photograph my encounters with wildlife, not kill with impunity “gods” “creations”….

  • Thomas Holmes

    What is not mentioned in this article is the booming population of black bears in the Midwest – tags are hard to get and there are few black bear hunters so the population has exploded. Friend of mine found a huge bear skull just North of Madison WI the other year – this bear lived in a highly populated area with many active outdoors folks around for years and was never seen. Hunters, hikers, fisherman, bikers – all kinds of outdoors folks around a monster bear for years – never spotted! Amazing animals.

    • Stephanie Thigpin

      What about the population EXPLOSION of homo sapiens? The exponential over population of humans encroaching into all wildlife habitat should be at least mentioned. If there are encounters with wildlife it is the fault of humans who should know better. You are in far more danger of being attacked by a human than any wildlife.

      • Thomas Holmes

        It is an issue of the overpopulation of bears in these areas – not human encroachment. Bears are now moving into metropolitan areas and suburbs. We need to implement effective controls on the bear population. Most of the areas where the encounters are occurring have been populate by people for a long time. Same issue with coyotes, deer, mountain lions, etc – coyotes now live in the city of Chicago and a mountain lion was recently shot outside of a Chicago school.

        • Stephanie Thigpin

          Because MAN has degraded and destroyed most of their natural habitats. So yes, there most certainly is a very real issue with human overpopulation. We need to implement effective controls on the human population. Have you been living under a rock? There are over 7 BILLION humans, more than a 50% increase in just 50 yrs., That is the reason for more encounters with wildlife, they have no where left to go. Humans are literally everywhere! That mountain lion should not have been murdered, that is inexcusable. A life is a life.

          • Thomas Holmes

            I do not live under a rock – you need to get away from the biased info you read – there is not a population problem in the USA – I travel throughout the country on hunting excursions and there are enormous areas that are virtually unpopulated where you can travel for 100′s of miles and only small communities exist. I also see how animals are overpopulating – wolves,coyotes, deer, bear – numbers way above what they should be – encounters are occurring due to animal populations exploding not human.

          • Thomas Holmes

            You need to travel in the Midwest – MI, WI, IL, NE, IN,ND,SD, WY etc all virtually unpopulated by humans. Leave the east coast and west coast and there are vast tracks of wild country.. BTW the mountain lion was sitting in a tree next to a school yard waiting for a child to eat – that is why it was killed and rightly so. Humans have lives, animals are creatures created by God to sustain us – they kill and eat each to survive as we kill and eat them to survive – Man is a predator just like the bear, mountain lion, wolf, eagle, coyote etc. I hunt because I am an omnivore and prefer to gather my own food.

      • jim

        Just give me tags for both.

      • ElCarmino

        I canoed/camped in the backwoods of Manitoba for YEARS. I’ve seen countless bears. They’ve always run like hell in the other direction. The idea that they are somehow a huge threat now is a complete and utter farce used to amp up anti-bear sentiment and to expand hunting. Statistically speaking, you are probably more likely to die of a wasp sting than a bear. More pro-hunting drivel.

  • Horns Swoggle

    This western drought and fires everywhere has bears scrambling for food already in the lower 48 and if it continues the bears will get more aggressive and hibernate less, there are states where bears are way overpopulated now and trouble may be coming.

    • Stephanie Thigpin

      Humans are far more overpopulated and much more aggressive than bears or any other wildlife. Don’t want an encounter with wildlife, stay out of what little is left of their habitats.

  • Edward Wright

    Once again propaganda rules the day. The International Bear WHAT?, yea right. The overpopulation of bears nationwide is documented by DNR biologists coast to coast. The de-listing of the grizzly in the lower 48 is vital to restoring hunting as biological control of this primary predator. But biological management is not the agenda.
    Bears are alpha predators with what as been therozied as 2x the intelligence of that of the canine. The wild dog of Africa has a 98% capture success rate , the wolf average is 75-80%. The fact that a bear is a more successful predator is offset only because he is an omnivore, but with wolf populations exceeding capacity, combined with bear numbers exceeding habitat, ungulate numbers have fallen across the country.
    The conflict with man is a twofold problem, first is prey shiftdue to lower ungulate numbers, second is a natural fear loss, due to lack of predatory threat to bears. Bears do exhibit increased fear of man in hunted areas, only compromised by hunger, or loss of habitat.
    Answer: Expand hunting to nonhunted species, increase tag harvest in current hunted areas. If not the bear conflict will increase without doubt, because the habitat is finite. Decreased alpha predators is the only way to ensure their survival. That is the biological fact.

  • KingObama

    I hunt alot but in the bears “defense” every single weekend in Chicago 40 to 60 people are shot and 8 to 12 of them are killed. Where’s the big hub-bub about that ? Bears are dangerous but they ain’t out to get you unlike the animals in the city. If your in or near the woods keep an eye out and understand that’s where animals live , the only place they live. In the city …….. just watch out for EVERYTHING and carry – always carry

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