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"Bear Attacks" by Stephen Herrero
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jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
"Bear Attacks" by Stephen Herrero on 02/29/2012 10:42:36 MST Print View

I was at Powells reading this book "Bear Attacks" by Stephen Herrero

He analyzed bear attacks data in U.S. and Canada. This is from memory, might have a couple facts a little wrong:

I looked at black bear but he also talked about grizzlies

Fatalities very rare, something like 20 in 20 years. Most in Canada.

Bears habituated to humans not so much of a problem

Mother bears protecting cubs weren't much of a problem

Wild bears that have little contact with humans were more likely to be a problem. Especially when they were hungry early in season. They killed humans to eat them.

If you fight back you can probably survive. Yell. Punch them in face. Throw rocks. Poke with stick. I would think a trekking pole would be pretty useful though he didn't mention this.

Many cases of people climbing trees. Sometimes this works, but black bears climb trees too. They often grab the foot of the human and drag the human down to the ground.

I think the main point is that attacks are rare so you don't need to worry about it.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: "Bear Attacks" by Stephen Herrero on 02/29/2012 10:51:12 MST Print View


I think many people have a fear of the unknown. So wild animals scare a lot of people. Black bears don't worry me, but I do the correct things to minimize any problems.

I have not hiked much in Grizzly country, and they scare me. However, that does not mean I am not going to hike there, just going to be much more cautious and well prepared/knowledgeable if I do take a Grizzly country trip.

We know that driving a car can result in injury, but few people are afraid to drive a car. Driving is an environment we are very familiar with, not many unknowns.

Rob E

Locale: Canada
Re: "Bear Attacks" by Stephen Herrero on 02/29/2012 11:10:58 MST Print View

Hi Jerry, I actually just ordered this book, and bear attacks II by the same author. I am interested to hear what he has to say about the subject.

I have some solo trips planned on a fairly remote stretch of British Columbia coast line along some salmon spawning streams in an area known for both grizzly bears and black bears. My main concern is that a bad spring resulting in a bad crop of berries and grasses that they eat after hibernation combined with dwindling salmon stocks might result in hungry bears! I bought this books hopefully to just gain some knowledge about bear physiology/psychology/behaviour/habits and to just hopefully increase my level of preparedness.

Tyler H
(ctwnwood) - F

Locale: The Palouse
re: Bear Attacks by Herrero on 02/29/2012 11:18:14 MST Print View

This is THE go-to book on bear safety. If I remember correctly Herrero has been a bear biologist in Montana for decades and has done exhaustive research on, as the title states, bear attacks, their causes, and how to avoid them.

I don't think his ultimate point is that they are so rare that you don't need to worry. He makes a lot of important points, but what I took away is that bear attacks are exceedingly rare, especially in groups of 3 or more, and are often preventable.

He notes that there are zero recorded fatalities from bear attacks in groups greater than 3 and in groups with horses. He talks about all kinds of strategies for identifying blacks vs grizzlies and options for protection.

Mostly he describes in detail a number of different bear attacks and picks apart 'where they went wrong.' Basically he describes everything the hikers did and could have done differently.

Great read, highly recommended.

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Re: Re: "Bear Attacks" by Stephen Herrero on 02/29/2012 11:24:30 MST Print View

I agree with Nick that a lot of it is fear of the unknown. Statistically, you're at much more risk driving to the trailhead than being injuried or killed by a bear, but we've all come to terms with the risks of driving and we imagine we have more control of that risk than we really do.

Another thoughts of "fear of the unknown" - following lion tracks in Zimbabwe (something that was new to me) had me more on edge than walking down an Alaskan trail with recent bear sign (steaming scat). But a white African lion researcher we know was more concerned about bears when he came to Alaska than the lions he's around every day in Zimbabwean national parks.

I've read Herrero's work and corresponded with him a little. Based on the data he's collected about group size and how large groups are very safe, I think the dominant factor is noise - making noise gives the bears the opportunity to detect and avoid you. That certainly has been my experience. All my encounters have been when I've been hiking quietly (the year I got my iPod, I saw 5 grizzlies. I don't hike with it anymore). The only bears I've seen when yakking it up were heading the other way, often quickly.

I only hike in Griz and black bear country and I keep it in my mind, but much as I do the weather - something to consider and factor in and reduce the hazards, but not a cause for any anxiety.

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Re: "Bear Attacks" by Stephen Herrero on 02/29/2012 11:27:43 MST Print View

20 deaths in 20 years... I wonder if the data are laid out by year -- and if there's any increase in recent years? Seems like we hear more about bear maulings these days? Maybe it's because hunting has slacked and recent generations of bears have less fear of us? Or maybe just the usual media hype??

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: "Bear Attacks" by Stephen Herrero on 02/29/2012 11:44:21 MST Print View

A story about bear attacking human makes a good read so will help sell newspapers...

Ben F
(tekhna) - F
Re: Re: "Bear Attacks" by Stephen Herrero on 02/29/2012 11:46:06 MST Print View


Could plot that out by decade, I suppose. There would probably be a greater number closer to the present simply because of habitat encroachment and greater number of backpackers.

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: "Bear Attacks" by Stephen Herrero on 02/29/2012 11:55:33 MST Print View

Good wikipedia article

Herrero (obviously) talked about the same incidents

Also went a great deal into bear behavior and how to avoid problems

Dave -
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Up there
Re: Re: "Bear Attacks" by Stephen Herrero on 02/29/2012 12:03:58 MST Print View

Isn't a group of 7 more than a group of 3?

Gary Dunckel
(Zia-Grill-Guy) - MLife

Locale: Boulder
Herrero and the Craigheads on 02/29/2012 12:14:31 MST Print View

Herrero is associated with the University of Alberta. You might be thinking of the Craighead brothers, who worked out of the University of Montana and spent decades studying the griz of Yellowstone and Glacier.

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
cute bears on 02/29/2012 12:32:41 MST Print View

they just want to be fed some bear treats ... called tourists ;)

i have an old dog eared copy of that book

Ben F
(tekhna) - F
Guns vs spray on 02/29/2012 12:35:06 MST Print View

Don't mean to stoke the fires of a conversation that aren't 100% relevant, but I was doing some googling and came across this doc:

The question is not one of marksmanship or clear thinking in the face of a growling bear, for even a skilled marksman with steady nerves may have a slim chance of deterring a bear attack with a gun. Law enforcement agents for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have experience that supports this reality -- based on their investigations of human-bear encounters since 1992, persons encountering grizzlies and defending themselves with firearms suffer injury about 50% of the time. During the same period, persons defending themselves with pepper spray escaped injury most of the time, and those that were injured experienced shorter duration attacks and less severe injuries. Canadian bear biologist Dr. Stephen Herrero reached similar conclusions based on his own research -- a person’s chance of incurring serious injury from a charging grizzly doubles when bullets are fired versus when bear spray is used.

Edited by tekhna on 02/29/2012 12:37:44 MST.

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Re: Re: Re: "Bear Attacks" by Stephen Herrero on 02/29/2012 12:46:10 MST Print View

>"Isn't a group of 7 more than a group of 3?"

7 is more than 3 but "being bitten and all were scared out of their wits" is less than dead.

"and it appears now the bear might have been as confused as the students by the situation in which all found themselves. As the students, Stuemke and Ford have described the creek bed in which everyone met, it is quite probable the bear at first thought it was confronting only Berg."

Dr. Herraro and his co-researchers have focused on fatal attacks. There are more non-fatal than fatal attacks. I haven't known anyone who got killed, my wife only knew, remotely, one. We each know people who've gotten bumped, scraped and one guy slightly scalped, but those pale in comparison to MVAs, avalanches, drownings, snowmachine mishaps, hitting a moose at 60 mph, and all the other ways to die outdoors in Alaska.

Clayton Mauritzen
(GlacierRambler) - F

Locale: NW Montana
Re: Guns vs spray on 02/29/2012 12:47:21 MST Print View

Good summary article on the gun/spray debate. I hear it all too often hiking when I talk to people about hiking in bear country. I think fear of the unknown fuels a lot of poor behavior beyond just guns. But I've also seen people lulled into a false sense of security using poor devices like bear bells--which are simply not loud enough for griz to hear. Most of the tourists who rely on bells stick to trails so well-traveled that they look like grocery store lines. But every so often, I'll be deep in the backcountry and run into some guy hiking silently with a bell on his pack.

My favorite line: "Like seatbelts, bear spray saves lives. But just as seatbelts don’t make driving off a bridge safe, bear spray is not a shield against deliberately seeking out or attracting a grizzly bear."

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Re: Guns vs spray on 02/29/2012 12:52:40 MST Print View

Ben, That's a good summary of my review of the data and personal practices - I don't carry a gun and I encourage people to carry spray if they want to carry something. Personally, I use noise instead of spray, but to each their own.

I don't argue people shouldn't carry guns, but I'd hope anyone who does has a large enough gun (no handguns, .338 rifles are most commonly used up here), and it very competent with it. Either that or a small .22 revolver or .25 auto and shoot your companion in the kneecap as you run away.

Dave -
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Up there
Re: Re: Re: Re: "Bear Attacks" by Stephen Herrero on 02/29/2012 12:58:03 MST Print View

"7 is more than 3 but "being bitten and all were scared out of their wits" is less than dead."

True - but the conclusion was that there were no bear attacks in groups of 3 or more. Not true.

I live beside the Canadian Rockies. Based on the number of attacks in Canada, I suspect carrying bear spray is a good thing, not to mention now the law for hikers in Provincial Parks in Alberta. The fine is steep.

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
close calls on 02/29/2012 13:03:15 MST Print View

i remember something in the aviation industry where for every plane crash there was something like 30 close calls that could have led to a crash ... and for every close calls there were 30 mistakes on different trips that could have led to a close call ...

as you can see from that video i posted ... that could easily have been a fatal attack ... and no one was hurt, so it wont make it into the stats ...

in bc running into bears even when walking on popular trails near metro vancouver is a fairly common occurrence ...

one does not necessarily have to get killed by a bear to have a bad day ... some bear attacks scar people for life ...

even barry blanchard, once one of NA top mountaineers, got chased 25m up a tree lat year with a japanese client by a grizz ... that wont make it into the stats since no one got "hurt" or "killed"

i do wonder however how ULers will deal with the brown pants syndrome if they dont take spare underwear to save weight ;)

@mr ure ... i can GUARANTEE that hiking in a group of 3 or more is ABSOLUTELY bear safe for you if you are faster than the other 2 hikers =P

Edited by bearbreeder on 02/29/2012 13:06:19 MST.

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: "Bear Attacks" by Stephen Herrero on 02/29/2012 13:07:12 MST Print View

Wow, REQUIRED to carry spray? That's an interesting development. I'd be curious how their stats change over the next few years.

Herraro writes pretty carefully - he's a college prof - and I haven't seen him say "no attacks on groups of 3 or more" but "exceedingly rare" and "no fatalities".

Tyler H
(ctwnwood) - F

Locale: The Palouse
re "7 is more than 3" on 02/29/2012 13:12:33 MST Print View

David U, what I said, paraphrasing Herrero was:

"He notes that there are zero recorded fatalities from bear attacks in groups greater than 3 and in groups with horses."

That's fatalities, not attacks/incidents, as the other David already pointed out. Further, the attack on the NOLS students in AK happened after Herrero's book was published.

I think David T has got it right, noise is a huge factor and that is likely why big groups are less likely to be approached by bears.

Gary, thanks you're correct I was thinking of the Craigheads.

Edited by ctwnwood on 02/29/2012 13:13:04 MST.