More people plus more bears equals more bear attacks

Aug 29, 2011

Wildlife experts say bear attacks are rising – but then, so is the number of people in bear country. Yellowstone National Park officials confirmed that a grizzly bear killed a hiker from Michigan. That's the second grizzly-caused death in the park this summer.

According to the Montana-based Center for Wildlife Information, run-ins with grizzly and black bears have increased in the last 20 years in North America. To some degree, that's expected. Bear populations have dramatically increased, and more people live and recreate in bear habitat now.

But bear experts worry that people have become complacent. Doug Zimmer does public education on bears at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service office in Lacey, Wash.

"Some people are very bear-educated and bear-savvy. Most people are not," he says. "What I hear from people over and over again –- and it's very often when I'm talking to somebody who's sitting on a gurney -– they say, 'Well we saw the bear and we wanted to get closer for a picture' and it went downhill from there."

Zimmer notes that on a per capita basis, attacks are still very rare.

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