Thursday, July 19, 2012

BLACK BEAR ATTACKS


     To wrap up our week of wild animals, we need to consider the other major potential predator in the Colorado Rockies, the black bear.

     Here's a nice review of fatal black bear attacks in the U.S. and Canada from the Journal of Wildlife Management, entitled "Fatal attacks by American black bear on people: 1900–2009", authored by Stephen Herrero et al.  The full article is pay-walled, but the abstract is available.
The key interesting facts:
  • From 1960 to 2009 (49 years) there were 54 fatal black bear attacks (slightly over one per year).
  • More fatal attacks occurred in Canada and Alaska (49) than in the U.S. (14), despite higher human and black bear populations in the U.S. and by implication more potential for human-bear encounters (although that was not elucidated in the study)
  • 92% of fatal bear attacks involved adult or young adult males, tending to refute the commonly asserted notion that mother bears with cubs are the most dangerous.
     The article does not address the more dangerous Alaskan brown bear, grizzly bear or polar bear.
 
     Contrast the bear numbers with the occurence of fatal lightning strikes according to About.com.   In 2006 there were 47 fatal lightning strikes in the entire U.S. (5 in Colorado alone)- close to the annual average of 44.
     Simple mathematical comparison of the bear versus lightning numbers means you are roughly 43.5 times more likely to be killed by a lightning strike in the U.S. than by a black bear.

     Both of these are dwarfed by the chance of being purposely killed by another human-- 16,400 murders reported in the U.S. in 2008, the year Jack Gordon disappeared (data from the U.S. Census Bureau).  You do the math!

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