Have you ever wondered just how many bear attacks occur each year? I am lucky, I live in a part of the world where bears are not an issue for anybody.
However, bears remain fascinating creatures that have a longstanding and intertwined history with humankind.
Growing up, the closest I got to seeing bears was watching Saturday morning cartoons. That said, I did once come close to a couple of black bears while horseback riding through the Canadian wilderness on a holiday excursion one summer.
The truth is, you have approximately a 0.02% chance of being attacked by a bear. Yet, despite these low odds, bear attacks still occur, especially in North America. Keep reading to learn the most interesting facts and statistics that shine a truthful light on Yogi and Boo-Boo.
Five Interesting Bear Facts
Below are five of the most interesting bear facts for 2023.
- There are 40 bear attacks on humans worldwide every year.
- Between 2000 and 2015, 50% of bear attacks were because a mother bear attacked in defense of her cub.
- Grizzly or Brown bears are the most aggressive bears and have a bite force of over 1200 PSI.
- There are eight different species of bear.
- The number one cause of bear attacks is a bear protecting itself when threatened.
Bear Attack Hotspots
Three species of bear are native to North America, and one of these is the polar bear. With such a wide dispersal range, there are still four key hotspots for bear attack activity.
- Montana’s Glacier National Park: Located in Montana, this large rocky mountain national park covers 1,583 square miles and has over 700km of hiking trails. Glacier National Park is home to black bears and grizzly bears.
- Yellowstone National Park: Yellowstone covers 3,500 square miles and three separate states. It is home to a wide range of natural wonders, including Old Faithful. Yellowstone is home to black bears and brown bears. Black bears are the more commonly seen bear.
- NW corner of Wyoming: The northwest corner of Wyoming is home to black and grizzly bears, many of whom wander from Yellowstone.
- Algonquin Provincial Park Ontario, Canada: At nearly 3,000 square miles, Algonquin national park is home to the black bear. However, with an estimated population of just 2,000, they remain a relatively uncommon sight.
Bear Attack Statistics
Below are twelve fascinating bear attack statistics.
The Majority of Bear Attacks Occur Because Bears Feel Threatened or Are Protecting Their Young. (IGBC)
According to the National Park Service, the primary reason behind bear attacks in North America is that the bears are protecting their food or cubs. Male brown bears are more likely to attack a human than a female.
While bears are aggressive wild animals, they will not proactively hunt a human. The only exception to that would be if the bear were suffering from very severe starvation.
Almost 1 in 2.1 Million Chances of Being Attacked by a Bear. (National Park Service)
Bear attacks are rare. In fact, according to the National Park Service, the chance of being attacked by a bear is just 0.02% of 1 in 2.1 million.
If you further analyze those odds, the numbers move even further in your favor. If you camp at a roadside campground, the odds increase to 1 in 26.6 million. While the chance of a bear attack while hiking in the backcountry is a staggeringly rare 1 in 232,613 individual travel days.
Most Polar Bear Attacks Happen in July and December. (The Wildlife Society)
In 2017 the Wildlife Society published a study that showed 88% of polar bear attacks take place in either July or December.
The main reason behind these being the deadliest months is that ice coverage is at its smallest during those months, and thus polar bears and humans are that much closer in proximity.
Between 2000–2015, There Were 664 Brown Bear Attacks on People Worldwide. (Springer Nature)
In a paper published by Springer Nature, there were 664 brown bear attacks on humans worldwide.
It is estimated that there are over 200,000 brown bears left in the wild, and over 50% of them live in Russia. The rest are spread through Europe and North America. There were 95 fatal attacks in those 664 incidents.
48 Fatal Bear Attacks in North America From 2000–2017.
According to data published by AlaskaNewsSource, there were just 48 fatal attacks in North America between 2000 and 2017.
Out of these numbers, 25 attacks were from black bears and 21 from grizzly bears. Some attacks resulted in multiple fatalities.
Interestingly, there were no fatal polar bear attacks during that time.
2022 Has Seen an Increase in Bear Attack Numbers in the US. (The Guardian)
An article published in The Guardian confirmed an increase in the number of bear attacks in the US during 2022.
The reason for this is a combination of the steady growth of wild bears and also the continued encroachment of humans into bear habitats.
11 Fatal Bear Attacks in Romania Between 2000–2015. (Wilderness Society)
Romania has a wild brown bear population of around 6,000. According to a report from the Wilderness Society, there were 11 fatal bear attacks in Romania between 2000 and 2015.
However, as their numbers increase, the rate of wild bears attacking humans is rising. In 2019 alone, Romania saw 6 fatal brown bear attacks.
Half of 92 Bear Attacks in North America Involved a Dog. (ABS News)
Research conducted by the University of Calgary revealed that over half of all bear attacks involve a dog. Out of 92 studied attacks, 49 involved dogs.
A school of thought for this is the biological link between dogs and wolves and the predatory battles between wolves and bears.
When out in bear country, it is always advisable to keep dogs on a leash, as while bear attacks remain uncommon, it’s vital to do everything you can to keep the odds low.
Bear Attacks Rarely Involve Domestic Cats. (British Columbia Parks)
While there are no statistics directly related to encounters between bears and domestic cats, there is a lot of evidence to suggest incidents are infrequent.
Many experts believe bears are fearful of all felines due to frequent encounters with large wild cats.
In 2020, 162 Reports of Bears Attacking Backyard Chickens Were Received. (Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department)
As reported in the Burlington Free Press, the Vermont Fish and Wildlife department reported a staggering 162 incidents of wild bears attacking backyard chickens.
This spike in attacks is a result of increased bear numbers and an ever-dwindling supply of food. Bears are attracted to populated areas by nuts and berries left on birdfeeders, while chickens also present a convenient snack.
Since Yellowstone National Park Was Established in 1872, Only 8 People Have Been Fatally Injured by Bears. (NPS)
Yellowstone National Park is the eighth largest park in the United States, yet since 1872 the NPS has recorded just 8 fatal bear attacks.
Interestingly, all of the attacks were grizzly bear attacks.
In the same time period, there have been 125 people died from downing and 25 as a result of hot spring burns.
Black Bear Attack Statistics
Below is an intriguing black bear attack statistics that really put things into perspective.
One Fatal Black Bear Attack per Year in the US
According to data gathered on Wise About Bears, there is, on average, just one solitary fatal black bear encounter every year in the US.
The black bear is the least aggressive bear species and only attacks humans when startled or in self-defense.
Appalachian Trail Bear Attacks Statistics
Below are two eye-opening Appalachian trail bear attack statistics.
Appalachian Trail Bear Attack Statistics Show That One Fatal Black Bear Attack Occurs Every 8–10 Years. (Appalachian Trail)
According to Appalachian Trail Histories, there is just 1 fatal bear attack every 8-10 years. With 3 million people a year hitting the trail, the odds of suffering a bear attack come in at 1 in 30 million.
From 2000–2016, Only Two Fatal Black Bear Attacks on People on the Appalachian Trail. (Appalachian Trail)
Despite its popularity, the rarity of black bear attacks on the Appalachian trail remains consistently low. According to Appalachian Trail Histories, there have only been two fatal black bear incidents between 2000 and 2016.
Grizzly Bear Attack Statistics
Grizzly bears are the premier bear known around the world. Below are three interesting statistics on grizzled bear attacks.
Grizzly Is the Most Aggressive Bear. (USDA)
According to National Geographic, the grizzly bear is the most aggressive of all bear species. The article quantified the ferocity of brown bears by saying they were 3.5 times more dangerous than polar bear attacks and 21 times more dangerous than black bear attacks.
Yearly There Are Approximately 44 Grizzly Bear Attacks Globally. (Scientific Report)
A paper published in Scientific Reports revealed that globally there are, on average, just 44 reported grizzly bear attacks per year. Their data was derived from studying fifteen years of data pertaining to grizzly bear attacks.
Humans Are Responsible for 71% of Grizzly Bear Deaths. (Vital Ground Foundation)
According to a study from the British Columbia Ministry of Forests, humans are responsible for between 71-78% of grizzly bear deaths. The report details the rising number of interactions between humans and bears.
As humans further encroach on bear territory both in terms of urban expansion and recreational excursions into bear country, the rate of deadly encounters grows for both sides.
There are strict laws in place for hunting bears; however, killing one in self-defense is not a crime.
Alaska Bear Attack Statistics
The following two statistics on Alaska bear attacks make interesting reading.
The US State With the Most Bear Attacks Is Alaska. (Alaska’s News Source)
According to a report from Alaska’s News Source, the state is accountable for 29% of all fatal bear attacks.
For consideration, Alaska has the highest concentration of bears out of all fifty US states. In addition, Alaska is the only state home to all three native bear species.
Alaskans live in close proximity to bears, especially during the period of the year when ice flow is at a minimum. This raises the odds of bear encounters and attacks.
6 Fatal Bear Attacks in Alaska Between 2008–2018. (ADN))
While Alaskans live in close proximity to bears, there were just six fatal bear attacks in a decade between 2008 and 2018. Two of which were caused by polar bears.
However, many experts fear that as global warming continues to impact the planet, the rate of attacks by polar bears of other species will rise. There have already been two fatal attacks in 2023.
Bear Attack Statistics California
Below are two key facts about bear attack statistics in California.
In 2022, There Were Several High-Profile Cases of Black Bears Breaking Into Homes in California. (CBS Sacramento, CNN)
As reported by CNN, in 2022, a group of large black bears, led by the 500lbs Hank the Tank, broke into 28 California homes while causing damage to 33. Nobody was injured during the attack.
The bears were calorie-loading in preparation for the upcoming hibernation.
No Fatal Bear Attacks in California Since 1986. (California Department of Fish and Wildlife)
According to the LA Almanac, there have been no fatal bear attacks in California since 1986. Yet California is home to both grizzled and brown bears.
There were 25 attacks reported during the same period, and while they resulted in numerous injuries, none of them proved fatal.
Glacier National Park Bear Attack Statistics
The following two facts relate to bear attacks in Glacier National Park.
In 1967, Glacier National Park Saw Two Fatal Bear Attacks on the Same Day. (Smithsonian Magazine)
The summer of 1967 saw two separate and unrelated deaths from bear attacks on the same day, just a few hours apart. As documented in Smithsonian Magazine, the two females, both 19, were out camping when they were carried away by brown bears.
The events were the first fatal attacks in the park’s history and ushered in a complete overhaul of the bear management system.
No fatal bear attacks in Glacier National Park since 1998. (NPS)
Glacier National Park sees over 3 million visitors per year, and yet, despite the high bear populations, there has not been a fatal bear incident since 1998.
As documented in park literature, records for the park go back to 1910, and all fatal bear-related incidents happened between 1967 and 1998.
In total, there have been 10 bear-related deaths at the part out of over 111 million visitors.
Deaths in Yosemite Statistics
Below are bear attack statistics related to Yosemite Valley.
Between 1998-2020, bear attacks in Yosemite Valley decreased by 98% (Yosemite National Park)
As compared to 2019, the year with the lowest number of bear attacks, there has been a rise in incidents. However, bears mostly attack humans for the food they carry and are not that interested in humans per se.
22 Bear Attacks on Humans in the US Yosemite National Park in 2019 (NPS)
Data reveals, in 2019 there were around 4.4 million visits to Yosemite National Park. But the number of bear-related incidents has decreased over the years as it is illegal to leave food in the park.
Why Do Bears Attack Humans?
One may wonder about the reasons behind bears attacking humans. Usually, there are two types of attacks.
A bear may attack a human to protect its young one or food source. This attack is known as the defensive attack. A bear may also attack if it gets startled. You may unintentionally turn the corner and be just a few feet away from a bear, which may immediately react and attack you.
Another behavior that bears may exhibit is “bluff charge.” It is not an attack per se, it’s just the animal giving signals that you are trespassing on its safe space and making the bear uncomfortable.
The other type of attack is the predatory attack; the animal’s behavior is totally different. In predatory attacks, the bear sees you as a food source but these attacks are quite rare.
How Can You Avoid a Bear Attack?
You should travel in groups, and if you encounter a bear; stay calm. Most bears just want to be left alone and not necessarily attack you. Talk calmly to identify yourself, so that the bear knows you’re human and not a prey animal. You can also move to higher ground to appear as large as possible.
However, don’t try to run or climb trees and be extra cautious if you come across a female bear with its offspring.
In case of a defensive attack, it’s best to play dead. The animal usually sees you as a threat that it wants to eliminate. Once you become non-threatening, the bear will typically walk away.
Although the risk is there, it is quite minimal. The best thing to do is get yourself educated about bears and what to do in situations like these.
Below are five frequently asked questions pertaining to bear attacks.
How Many Bear Attacks Occur in a Year?
Approximately 40 bear attacks occur per year. This data is based on research gathered on grizzly bear attacks over a 15-year period. These figures represent the global attack rate.
What Percentage of Bear Attacks Are Fatal?
According to research from the National Park Service, approximately 11% of brown bear attacks are fatal. The majority of grizzly bear attacks on humans are because the bears feel threatened. Bears lash out to protect their cubs or their food.
Should You Play Dead With a Bear?
Yes, playing dead when attacked by a bear is a good idea. However, this depends on the species of bear. When dealing with grizzly bear attacks. However, should you be attacked by a black bear, playing dead is not advisable. The best course of action for a black bear attack is to flee to safety, or failing that, fight back.
Which Bears Are Most Dangerous?
The grizzly bear is the most dangerous bear. Research reveals that a grizzly bear attack is 3.5 times more dangerous than attacks from polar bears and 21 times more dangerous than black bear attacks.
What Is a Good Bear Deterrent?
Noisemakers and bear spray are the two best bear deterrents. It is strongly recommended that anybody venturing out into bear country take both items with them in case of an attack.
While there is less than a 0.02% chance of being attacked by a bear, it is a case of being better safe than sorry.
Bears are indigenous across most of the United States, and while the chances of being attacked by a bear are slim, they do happen. When a bear attacks, they are rarely unprovoked attacks and unusually relate to mama bears protecting their cubs or their food.
The statistics show that while many people survive their encounters with wild bears, it is always a case of being prepared and knowing what to do in case of an attack.
Have you ever seen a bear while out in the wild? If so, we’d love to hear about your experiences.