MAP: Fatal Bear Attacks in North America

photo from AK Dept. of Fish & Game

ANCHORAGE (KTUU) -


(App users, to view the interactive data visualization, follow the link).

Methodology:
Data is sourced from a variety of news organizations and archives. Click on each location point for external links to the referenced articles.

On a whole, tracking both bear sighting and non-fatal bear attack statistics can be challenging to compile, because cases can either be incomplete, or go unreported. However, fatal bear attacks are reported, covered and tracked far more frequently, by society.

This map includes all fatal bear attack incidents, and their resulting deaths, in North America, between January 2000 through June 2017.

Story:
In June, two back-to-back fatal bear maulings occurred, in Alaska. These two incidents, one on June 18 near Bird Ridge, and another on June 19 near Pogo Mine, marked 2017's first two death-by-bear cases, in North America.

In the 2000s, there have been 46 total fatal bear attack incidents, resulting in 48 total deaths, in North America, so far. Of these incidents, 27 occurred in the United States, and 19 occurred in Canada.

Moreover, eight fatal bear attack incidents, resulting in 10 deaths, occurred in Alaska, between January 2000 through June 2017.

During this period, Alaska's number of incidents account for 29.6 percent of all fatal attacks in the U.S., along with 17.4 percent of all fatal attacks in North America. And the state's number of resulting deaths account for 34.5 percent of total deaths-by-bear in the U.S., and 20.8 percent of total deaths-by-bear in North America.

Of the 46 total fatal incidents, black bears perpetrated 25 of the attacks, while brown bears perpetrated 21 of them.

According to biologists, black bears have the tendency to be less aggressive - more timid - towards humans, in comparison to brown bears. But the Alaska Department of Fish and Game says everyone should always be cautious of bears, regardless.

Most years, there are three fatal bear attack incidents on the continent, per year. But on average, this number decreases to 2.56 fatal incidents, per year.

So far, the greatest number of fatal attacks to occur in any one year was in 2005, at six incidents. But one year prior, in 2004, the continent had its lowest number of fatal bear incidents, at zero.

While bear attacks are relatively rare occurrences, if you ever make contact with a bear, ADF&G says you have two choices: play dead or fight back.

When a bear is acting defensive, especially brown bears, the department says to play dead:

"Hit the ground and lie still, if a brown bear you have surprised or any female bear protecting cubs makes contact. Lie flat on your stomach, legs spread apart for stability, with your hands protecting the back of your neck. A defensive bear usually ends its attack, if it feels you are not a threat. Remain motionless for as long as possible. If you move, and the bear sees or hears you, it may return and renew its attack. In a prolonged attack, fight back."

But when a bear perceives a human as food, the department says to fight back:

"Rarely, lone black bears or brown bears may perceive a person as potential food. Fight any bear that has been calmly focused on you and makes contact or that breaks into a tent or building. In almost all situations, your best defense against an attacking black bear is to fight back. Concentrate on the bear’s face or muzzle with anything you have on hand."

Also important, the department warns people against running away from bears.

"They will chase fleeing animals," according to ADF&G. "A charging bear might come within a few feet, before running off. It's important to stand your ground."

And in Alaska, if you kill a bear in Defense of Life or Property (DLP), you must notify the local ADF&G Wildlife Conservation office or the Alaska Wildlife Troopers. They will request that you submit the bear's skull and hide, with claws attached, alongside a DLP form, for investigation.

For more information about bears in Alaska, visit ADF&G's What to do if You have Conflict with a Bear website.



 
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