Recent Bear Attacks Are "Freak Occurrences," Experts Say

Stefan Lovgren
for National Geographic News
April 24, 2006

A hunter was attacked and seriously injured by a black bear Saturday on a road just outside Olympic National Park in Washington State.

The incident follows a black bear attack nine days earlier that killed a six-year-old girl in the Cherokee National Forest in Tennessee.

(Related story: Grizzly Man Movie Spurs New Looks at a Grisly Death.)

Some experts say the bear attacks may be a sign of a growing clash between humans and the wild.

"I think it is probably just a matter of there being more bears and more people in bear range than ever before," Joe Clark, an ecologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, told the Associated Press.

But Lynn Rogers, director of the Minnesota-based North American Bear Center, points out that only a few of the killings have occurred in the eastern United States, which has by far the most bear-human encounters.

Bear attacks are "freak occurrences" and remain exceptionally rare, he says.

"The attacks that do happen are predatory, unprovoked attacks that are uncharacteristic of black bears, which are basically timid," Rogers said.

One in a Million

According to news reports, the hunter, whose name wasn't released, was attacked late Saturday by a black bear near Forks, Washington. The bear reportedly dragged the man away from the site of the attack before a second hunter shot and killed the animal.

The injured hunter suffered a fractured arm and a broken hand, Larry Evans, a shift supervisor for the Washington State Patrol office in Bremerton, told the Associated Press. He said the victim lost a significant amount of blood but was expected to survive.

Nine days earlier, on April 13, six-year-old Elora Petrasek of Clyde, Ohio, was killed when a bear attacked her as she was swimming with her mother and two-year-old brother near the Chilhowee Recreation Area near Cleveland, Tennessee.

Continued on Next Page >>




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