By now you may have already heard about the grizzly bear attack and death of a hiker in Yellowstone. The man who died and his wife were hiking in an area where there was a mother grizzly bear with two cubs. It is well known that mother grizzlies fiercely defend their cubs from any animal or person who gets too close, but what is too close? The man and his wife were hiking the Wapiti Lake trail and surprised the bear. Surprising wild bears is believed to invoke their attack mode, which sounds very obvious now, but many people don’t know this fact.
The National Park Service website says, “The vast majority of bear attacks have occurred because people have surprised a bear. In this type of situation the bear may attack as a defensive maneuver.” One of the key activities when walking through bear country is to make noise constantly so you don’t surprise them if you get close accidentally. Talking, singing, clapping, even wearing bells on a backpack or shoes could all be used, if they are loud. A government website for Alberta, Canada lists several noise makers such as air horns and pen launchers.
In dense brush or near rushing water a bear may not hear your noises. It may be better to try to avoid such areas if you know there are wild bears there.
Often when a bear bites and scratches a person, and it is reported, the bear is killed by officials or captured and relocated to wild areas far from people. In this case, the mother bear has not been killed because it was determined she was only defending her cubs, and that is normal behavior for a mother bear.
The National Park Service said the recent tragedy is the first human fatality due to a bear mauling in Yellowstone since 1986. One fatality, also due to a mother grizzly bear, was recorded last year near the park, but not inside. Yellowstone National Park has between 3.6 and 4.3 million visitors per year. The number of human-bear conflicts there is extremely small compared with the number of tourists.
Image Credit: Mila Zinkova