Causes of Bear Attacks

Nearly every bear attack occurring in the wild has resulted from the human surprising the bear. Hunters are the people most at risk of bear attacks because, as Tom Smith, a U.S. Geographical Survey research biologist, describes, “Hunters typically aren’t making any noise, and they sleuth around while wearing camo. This description is somewhat stereotypical, but essentially true. Hunters try to be silent and, though many hunters wear reflective clothing so as not to become targets for other hunters, they try to hide their movements so as not to startle game. Most bear attacks result from hunters suddenly appearing in front of them, startling a bear into an instinctive act of aggression.

However, a bear’s first reaction upon detecting a human is to run away. Fergus lists a few possible causes for this instinctive reaction, each a speculation or theory based more on intuition rather than physical evidence. Some speculate that bears inherit their cautious nature from thousands of years ago when they had to be wary of larger and more dangerous carnivores. Some believe that bears have come to relate a human presence to firearms, or other weaponry, that they have come to fear. Still others think that hunters tend to target more aggressive bears, thus leaving only the more shy and timid bears to reproduce, creating a population of bears less hostile than before.