August 20, 2013
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.