What are the actual numbers? How many bear attacks happen per year? And should you be worried?

Well, if you know what to do, a meeting with this animal is avoidable. That’s why we’re going to teach you the right steps and how to identify common bears. 

Frankly, our effect on these animals worldwide is far more concerning. Climate change is a catastrophic issue for most of our planet’s species.

Little Known Bear Attack Statistics

  • There were 664 attacks by brown bears on humans between 2000–2015.
  • Annually, 2–5 people in North America die from bears.
  • Glacier National Park encountered two fatal bear attacks on the same day in 1967.
  • Since 1872, bears have killed eight people in Yellowstone Park. 
  • Between 2000–2017, in Alaska, there were eight attacks by bears. 
  • 15 attacks from polar bears were recorded globally between 2010–2014.
  • There were 11 fatal attacks in Romania between 2000–2015.
  • 32 US states are home to black and brown bears. 
  • A male grizzly bear can weigh up to 1,700 pounds.
  • 71% of grizzly bear deaths are because of humans.

How Common Are Bear Attacks?

1. There Have Been 664 Attacks by Brown Bears on Humans Between 2000-2015

(Source: Springer Nature) 

  • The total attack rate is about 40% globally. 
  • 20% of these were surprise attacks, and 50% came from females with cubs.
  • 50% of European attacks take place in Romania.

Bear attack statistics in 2021 show us that your chance of being attacked by a bear, no matter where you are, is meager. 

2. Between 2–5 People in North America Die From Attacks by Bears Annually

(Source: The Alaska Life) 

  • Since 1900, 61 people have been killed by a black bear in North America. These are the rarest attacks compared to the ones by grizzly bears.
  • In contrast, grizzlies are 20 times more dangerous than the black bear.
  • You’re 425,000 times more likely to die from heart disease than a bear attack.

So, if you long to meet a bear out in the wild, your chances are very slim but not non-existent. You’ll learn what to do in such cases a bit later.

Bear Attack Statistics in the United States

The US is home to many habitats for this mammal, particularly Montana, Alaska, California, and North America. 

3. Glacier National Park Encountered Two Fatal Bear Attacks on the Same Day in 1967

(Source: Smithsonian Magazine) 

  • The above attacks were the first in 57 years and came within hours from two different grizzly bears on two separate sites. It led to serious trash regulation changes.
  • There are an estimated 800 Grizzly bears in Montana. They can weigh up to 790 pounds and stand about 4 feet on all fours.
  • Two million people visit Glacier National Park every year, and over one million are hikers. Annually, there are two non-fatal bear incidents on average. Besides, since opening in 1967, there have only been ten fatalities due to bears. 

The Montana grizzly bear attack and statistics display just how scarce these events are. 

4. Bears Have Killed Eight People in Yellowstone Park Since 1872

(Source: National Park Service)

  • Comparatively, the park had 121 drownings, 26 suicides, and 21 burns in the same period.
  • You have a higher chance of dying from a falling tree, an avalanche, or getting struck by lightning than a Yellowstone bear attack — one in 2.7 million
  • If you remain in a developed area, the chances decrease to one in 59 million. In contrast, hiking backcountry will increase your chance of a grizzly bear attack to approximately 1 in 232,000.

Unfortunately, bear attacks statistics in the United States are increasing because of the growing human population that pushes the animals out of their habitats. 

bear attacks statistics in the United States are increasing because of the growing human population that pushes the animals out of their habitats

5. Between 2000–2017 There Were Eight Fatal Attacks by Bears in Alaska 

(Source: Alaska’s News Source)

  • 29.6% of the fatal attacks during this period in the US took place in Alaska.
  • The eight fatal attacks caused ten deaths, making 34.5% of all US bear attack deaths.
  • According to bear attack statistics, North America had its highest fatality rate in 2005 with a staggering six incidents.

The numbers in Alaska are incredibly low if you think about the state’s sheer size that houses over 30,000 brown bears. 

6. Since 1986, There Haven’t Been Any Fatal Black Bear Attacks in California

(Source: California Department of Fish and Wildlife)

  • There are approximately 35,000 black bears in California, the only bear above three feet in the area.
  • Black bears will enter your backyard in search of food, and they might go after your pup. A black bear bit a Californian in 2019 after it attacked his dog. Since 1987, three out of seven unprovoked attacks in Minnesota started with a pup assault.
  • In 2020, hunters killed 919 bears. In February 2021, with over 27,000 signatures, a petition tried to ban that in California, but it was overruled. The truth is, we’re way more dangerous to bears than they are to us. And our list of the most endangered species continues to grow.

People in California worry because the animals come up to the houses. But there are ways to prevent this — not leaving trash outside, keeping your pup inside at night, and proper fencing around your property. 

Bear Attack Statistics Worldwide

So, just how many people are killed by bears each year? Not as many as there are in the dog fatalities statistics. Here’s what we know so far.

7. 15 Polar Bear Attacks Were Recorded Between 2010–2014 Globally 

(Source: Yale Environment 360)

  • Polar bear attack statistics are on the rise due to the diminishing habitats that force the animals into human-populated areas. Since 2000, 88% of attacks occurred between July and December when the sea level was at its lowest point.
  • Located in Northern Canada, Nunavut experienced two fatal attacks from polar bears in 2018. Local communities didn’t respond well, asking the government to increase the endangered species‘ annual hunting quota.
  • Scientists estimate that over half of Canadian black bear attacks happen due to a pup off a leash

Overall, there’s some truth to the horror stories but it’s rare. 

Frankly, the worsening climate change means polar bear attacks on humans are only going to increase. Their decreasing habitat causes a domino effect of more hunting and puts the animals at risk of becoming extinct sooner than expected. 

8. There Were 11 Fatal Bear Attacks in Romania Between 2000–2015

(Source: Wilderness Society) 

  • Brown bear populations are increasing worldwide. Romania has the largest population throughout Europe, with approximately 6,000 animals.
  • Unfortunately, hunters took the recent increase as a reason to reinstate legal bear hunting. The government recently approved it for the next five years with an extreme quota of 600 bears per year. Simply put, that’s 10% of the total brown bear population. 
  • A 2019 study suggests that bear attack statistics in Europe were 18.2% of the global amount between 2000–2015. Romania made up 8.2% of that. Additionally, the same study revealed that the country needs to invest in education rather than hunting to fix the problem. 

Annual bear attacks in Romania will keep increasing if something doesn’t teach the locals what to do.

32 US States Are Home to Black and Brown Bears 

How to Identify a Bear

Each bear species has different features that tell you how to react.

9. 32 US States Are Home to Black and Brown Bears 

(Source: Earth & Atmospheric Sciences)

  • It turns out that the name black bear is deceiving, as they come in a range of colors — brown, black, and blonde. They’re a smaller breed but can weigh as much as 600 pounds. The species runs up to 24 miles per hour—that’s as fast as an olympian. It’s not hard to imagine how bear attack deaths happen.
  • During winter, bears lose 30% of their weight. That’s why when hibernation is over they have a single objective — find food. The black bear has a phenomenal sense of smell, so don’t leave your food lying around in a bear country. 
  • Cubs are usually born between January and February and will be with their mom for about two years. Many attacks happen because females are trying to protect their young. To stay on the safe side, don’t go anywhere near a cub. Mom’s probably not far behind and ready to attack.

Non-fatal bear attack statistics are much higher than the fatal ones. But you can survive a bear attack if you know what to do.

10. A Male Grizzly Bear Weighs Up To 1,700 Pounds

(Source: The National Wildlife Federation)

  • Grizzly bears range in color — from very dark brown to a light tan. The most identifiable features are their rounded ears and large shoulder hump, which they scratch by rubbing on trees.
  • Grizzlies have much longer claws than the black bear. One of them is between two-four inches, whereas black bear claws are less than two. Seeing how fierce these animals truly are, it’s surprising how many bear attacks there are per year — much less than you’d think.  
  • Black bears are much more afraid than the grizzly, so making a loud noise will usually frighten them away. In contrast, the grizzly bear is incredibly fierce and will put up a fight. There’s a massive difference in the size of nearly 1,000 pounds

Knowing what to look for will come in handy if you ever meet a bear. Here’s what you should do. 

What to Do if You Encounter a Bear

So, despite your low chance of a bear attack, as statistics show, how can you prepare to go into the wild? 

11. Black Bears and Grizzly Bears Attack Differently

(Source: National Park Service)

  • If a black bear attacks, fight back with everything you have. Pick up sticks, use bear spray, shout, kick, and punch. Do all you can to defend yourself. While the odds of being attacked by a bear are very low, it never hurts to go prepared.
  • In contrast, if grizzly charges, don’t fight back. Lay flat on the ground with your legs spread apart, and use your arms to cover your head and neck. Don’t make a noise and stay down even if the bear stops attacking. 
  • Grizzly bear attack statistics are higher. If you come across any bear in the wild, stop and slowly back away, avoiding eye contact. Pick up kids and pets immediately. Waving your arms will also show the bear that you’re a human, and softly speaking may indicate that you’re not a threat.
  • There’s a common myth that older bears can’t or won’t climb trees. Do not climb a tree when running from this animal, as they can and will follow you up. This myth is responsible for many misfortune incidents. 

Knowing what to expect and what to do is crucial and could be the difference between a fatal and non-fatal attack. 

we shouldn’t only be looking at how many bear attacks there are per year because we’re doing much more damage to them

Bear Fatalities

Globally, we shouldn’t only be looking at how many bear attacks there are per year because we’re doing much more damage to them. 

12. 71% of Grizzly Bear Deaths Are Because of Humans

(Vital Ground Foundation) 

  • Only 12% of adult male bears die from natural causes. 32% of human-related bear killings come from hunting
  • Cubs often don’t make it to adulthood due to natural causes, but right behind is getting hit by a train. The little ones can’t move quickly enough to get off the tracks. Simply put, we’re the number one killer of grizzly bears. Their population of 50,000 dwindles to a mere 1,800 in North America.
  • 98% of US bears’ natural habitat has been lost due to our expanding population and the need for forested areas. 

Black bear deaths are increasing, and so are other similar species. If you visit a bear country,  be responsible and clean up wherever possible.

Wrap Up

Don’t panic. The chances of you getting attacked by a bear are incredibly low.

Annual bear attacks are a growing concern in some populated areas, but the truth is, these animals are dying at a much higher rate than we are. 

Instead of worrying over how many bear attacks there are per year, be aware of your surroundings and make choices that don’t worsen the environment statistics and will lower the chances of another species going extinct.

Sources:

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Emma is a lover of all animals. Her cat Pumpkin enjoys stretching out in the office while mom researches the best information on how to care for their fellow furry friends. Emma’s passion for animals started at a young age. Back then, she dedicated her time to shelters and vet clinics in South Africa. Her enthusiasm for writing and research is behind the most reliable information for pet lovers. She believes in treating animals with the devotion and respect they deserve.