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Attacks on humans by bears (Ursus spp.) have increased in recent decades, as both human and bear populations have increased. To help mitigate the risk of future attacks, it is important to understand the circumstances in past attacks. Information and analyses exist regarding fatal attacks by both American black bears (Ursus americanus) and brown bears (U. arctos) as well as non-fatal attacks by brown bears. No similarly thorough analyses on non-fatal attacks by black bears are available. Our study addressed this information gap by analyzing all (n = 210) agency-confirmed, non-fatal attacks by black bears in the 48 conterminous United States during 2000 to 2017. Most attacks were defensive (52%), while 15% were predatory and 33% were food-motivated. Of defensive attacks, 85% were by female bears, and 91% of those females had young. Of predatory attacks, 95% were by male bears, and of food-motivated attacks, 80% were by male bears. Forty percent of defensive attacks by female bears involved dogs (Canis lupus familiaris). Sixty-four percent had an attractant present during the attack and 74% indicated there were reports of property damage by bears or of bears getting a food-reward in the area prior to the attack. A classification and regression tree model show the highest proportion of severe attacks were among a female victim who was with a dog and who fought back during an attack. When compared with previous studies of fatal attacks by black bears, which are typically predatory attacks by male bears, our results illustrate clear differences between fatal and non-fatal attacks. Our study also lends evidence to the hypothesis that dogs can trigger defensive attacks by black bears. These results have implications for risk assessment, attack mitigation, and how we advise the public to respond to an attacking bear.
Scharhag, Janel M.; Sartini, Cady; Crimmins, Shawn M.; Hygnstrom, Scott E.; and Stetz, Jeffrey B.
"Characteristics of Non-Fatal Attacks by Black Bears: Conterminous United States, 2000–2017,"
Human–Wildlife Interactions: Vol. 15:
1, Article 23.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.usu.edu/hwi/vol15/iss1/23