Note: This article’s statistics come from third-party sources and do not represent the opinions of this website.
Bears are formidable predators that can inflict severe damage and carry out fatal attacks. However, these animals typically have shy natures and prefer to keep to themselves.
Bear attacks on humans are pretty rare, and the recorded number of how many people die from bear attacks is relatively small and inconsistent. Therefore, it’s difficult to provide an estimated average of how many bear attacks per year there are. There are also undoubtedly many attacks on animals—specifically pets—that go undocumented, although we’ve done our best to offer you information on that as well.
Here are some essential statistics on bear attacks so that you can stay informed with up-to-date information.
14 Bear Attack Statistics
- On average, there are about 40 brown bear attacks that happen around the world every year.
- The odds of being attacked by a bear at Yellowstone National Park is 1 in 2.1 million.
- 2021 has shown an increase in the number of bear attacks in the US.
- So far, California has two high-profile cases of black bears breaking into homes in 2021.
- Appalachian Trail bear attack statistics reveal estimates of about one fatal black bear attack to occur every 8-10 years.
- The US state that has the most bear attacks is Alaska.
- The number of fatal black bear attacks per year in the US comes to about one fatal attack a year.
- Since 1979, there have been 44 grizzly bear attacks at Yellowstone National Park.
- The frequency of polar bear attacks is increasing in recent years as the Arctic temperatures have become warmer.
- Most bear attacks occur because the bear feels protective or threatened.
- About 50,000 wild bears are hunted by people in North America every year.
- A 3-year study of 92 bear attacks in North America saw that half of them involved a dog.
- Although many bear attacks involve dogs, bears rarely attack domestic cats.
- In 2020, Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department received 162 reports of bears attacking backyard chickens.
Bear Attacks per Year
1. On average, there are about 40 brown bear attacks that happen around the world every year.
Brown bears, or grizzly bears, live in various parts of North America and Europe. North America has a population of about 58,000 grizzly bears, and Europe has a population about 15,400. The number of brown bear attacks in North America alone is 11.4 attacks per year.
2. The odds of being attacked by a bear at Yellowstone National Park is 1 in 2.7 million people per year.
(National Park Service (NPS))
In Yellowstone National Park, where bears are plentiful, your chances of getting attacked by a bear are very slim. Just for comparison, in the United States, over 42,000 people died in a fatal motor vehicle accident in 2020 alone.
3. 2021 has shown an increase in the number of bear attacks in the US.
There are several reasons for an increase in bear attacks in 2021. First, the bear population has steadily risen over the years with the aid of federal protection laws. Also, more humans have started to inhabit areas with denser bear populations.
The conflictive relationship between humans and bears appears to have increased tension. However, it’s important to remember that bear attacks are still rare. They just receive more attention and media coverage whenever they happen.
Bear Attacks in the United States
4. So far, California has two high-profile cases of black bears breaking into homes in 2021.
(CBS Sacramento, CNN)
When it comes to bear attack statistics, California has a fairly low number. However, in 2021, the State of California experienced two instances of black bears entering into people’s homes. One case occurred in Meyers in June, and the other occurred in Lake Tahoe in October.
Black bears have become more accustomed to the presence of humans on their territories, so cases of bears sifting through garbage cans and roaming onto people’s yards have become a more common occurrence in certain areas in California.
5. Appalachian Trail bear attack statistics reveal estimates that one fatal black bear attack occurs every 8-10 years.
(Appalachian Trail Histories)
Black bears live all throughout the Appalachian Trail. However, black bear attacks remain very uncommon in this area. From 2000 to 2016, there have been two confirmed fatal black bear attacks on the Appalachian Trail.
6. Alaska is the US state with the most bear attacks.
(Alaska’s News Source)
The most updated bear attacks in Alaska statistics reveal that Alaska accounts for 29.6% of all fatal bear attacks in the US. Alaska is one of the few places in the country that has all three species of North American bears living in it:
- Black Bears
- Grizzly Bears
- Polar Bears
Bear Attacks by Species
7. The number of fatal black bear attacks per year in the US comes to about one fatal attack a year.
(Wise About Bears)
Unprovoked attacks are rare and abnormal black bear behavior. Black bears typically avoid humans and remain hidden from view. You’ll find the occasional black bear entering campgrounds to rummage through trash bins and forage for food. However, even these bears aren’t likely to charge at people. They usually attack only if they feel threatened.
8. Since 1979, there have been 44 grizzly bear attacks at Yellowstone National Park.
The number of how many people are killed by bears each year is very small. If you’re concerned about how many grizzly bear attacks there are per year, you don’t have to worry too much.
The NPS has recorded over 118 million visits to Yellowstone National Park since 1979. Out of all these millions of visits to Yellowstone, there have been 44 grizzly bear attacks. Out of these attacks, eight have been fatal.
More visitors of the park have died from drowning (121 incidents) and burns after falling into hot springs (21 incidents).
9. The frequency of polar bear attacks is increasing in recent years as the Arctic warms up.
(The Wildlife Society)
Between 1960 and 2009, there were 47 reported polar bear attacks. However, in 2010 to 2014 alone, there have been 15 attacks. The majority of attacks occurred in July and December, which is when the amount of sea ice in the Arctic is the lowest.
These findings may predict that polar bear attacks will continue to increase in the next several years. The tension between humans and polar bears are heightening, and officials and researchers are searching for management solutions for harmonious coexistence.
Relationship Between Humans and Bears
10. Most bear attacks occur because the bear feels protective or threatened.
(Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee (IGBC))
Bears normally have shy personalities and prefer to avoid conflict rather than engage in it. They will only act aggressively if they feel that they have no other options. Bears don’t naturally consider people prey and are more interested in any human food or scraps that get left behind by campers and hikers.
Bears can become accustomed to humans as they consume human food in campgrounds or hiking trails. When they’re used to close contact with humans, they’re more likely to attack when there’s food involved.
11. About 50,000 wild bears are hunted in North America each year.
(Western Wildlife Outreach)
About 50,000 North American bears get hunted every hunting season. This number doesn’t account for illegally poached bears, so the number is most likely higher. Many poachers hunt bears because some of their parts, such as their paws and claws, are used in traditional Asian medicine.
Therefore, the number of people that die from bear attacks is significantly lower than bears that die from hunting and poaching.
Bear Attacks and Pets
12. A 3-year study of 92 bear attacks in North America saw that half of them involved a dog.
Many bear attacks get initiated by an off-leash dog, and they often end with the dog owner getting injured while trying to protect the dog. Dogs aren’t natural prey, and bears will usually avoid dogs because they resemble wolves, and they’re in close proximity to humans.
Dogs may try to chase a bear, which may provoke the bear to respond with aggression. Dogs can also try to run towards their owners, which can incite bears to chase them.
13. Although many bear attacks involve dogs, bears rarely attack domestic cats.
(British Columbia Parks)
Bears and cougars are natural enemies. Cougars prefer catching easy prey, but they will hunt a baby black bear if the opportunity comes their way.
Though cougars are more elusive, bears are a lot more timid and more likely to avoid or run away from an encounter with a cougar.
Since cats resemble smaller versions of cougars and mountain lions, many bears choose to avoid cats rather than engage with them. Many cats seem to display fearless behavior with bears and choose to stand their ground.
14. In 2020, Vermont Fish and Wildlife received 162 reports of bears attacking backyard chickens.
(Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department)
There has been an increase in bear attacks on chicken coops over the past several years. The two key reasons for this increase are that chicken coops are becoming more popular in Vermont, and chickens are natural prey for bears.
Officials state that electric wire fencing is an effective means of keeping bears out. Motion-activated lights and alarms can also deter bears from approaching a chicken coop.
Frequently Asked Questions About Bear Attacks
Which Type of Bear Is Most Dangerous?
When it comes to encounters with humans, grizzly bears and polar bears are the most dangerous and more likely to attack humans. However, Eurasian brown bears and American black bears have also attacked humans. Overall, if you see a bear, keep your distance. They are not gentle giants and can be unpredictable. (Britannica)
What Causes a Bear To Attack Humans?
Bears attack humans for two main reasons. First, they’re defending their young or a food source, such as their prey. Bears tend to be very protective of their young, so it’s best to head in the opposite direction if you see baby bears in the distance.
Bears can also attack when they’re startled or surprised. Therefore, make sure that your presence is obvious when you’re in an area with bears. Talk calmly and loudly so that bears can hear you from a distance. (National Geographic)
How Do You Avoid a Bear Attacking You?
Seeing a bear in the wild can be exciting but keep your distance to avoid an attack. Act calm so that you don’t startle the bear and talk to help the bear identify that you’re not prey.
It’s also best to hike in groups. Bears have an easier time sniffing out and hearing a group of people, so they become more aware of the presence of people from a farther distance. (NPS)
What Happens When a Bear Attacks You?
Your safest reaction to a bear attack will depend on the species of bear. If you encounter a grizzly bear, leave your backpack on and play dead by laying flat on your stomach with your hands clasped behind your neck. Spread your legs out to make it difficult for the bear to flip you over. Remain still until the bear leaves the area.
If the grizzly bear starts to attack aggressively, fight back vigorously and do whatever you can to hit the bear’s face.
If you’re facing a black bear, you don’t want to play dead. Do your best to escape the area as quickly as possible. If you can’t escape, fight back, and do your best to aim hits at the bear’s face and muzzle. (NPS)
What Happens When a Bear Attacks Your Pets?
Bears are more likely to attack dogs and smaller pets that are their natural prey, such as chickens and rabbits. The best way to stop a bear attack is to avoid having one start in the first place.
If you have a chicken coop or a rabbit hutch, make sure to set up extra safety measures to prevent bears from hunting these small animals. Along with electric fencing, bury galvanized hardware cloth about a foot under the perimeter of your small pets’ space to discourage digging. Make sure to also cover the top of the space with wire to prevent climbing. (Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department)
If you have a dog, the best way to avoid an attack is to keep your dog on a leash during walks and hikes. If you see a bear within 15 feet of you, make sure to keep your dog by your side and keep your dog calm. Slowly back away to create distance between you and the bear, and don’t make sudden movements.
If the bear still advances towards you, start waving your arms and make a lot of noise to discourage it from coming any closer. Throw another object away from you to redirect the bear’s attention and interest to something else. (Orvis)
What Is a Good Bear Deterrent?
When bears become accustomed to humans, they can start to roam closer to neighborhoods and homes. Fortunately, there are deterrents that you can place around your home to keep bears away.
Deterrents can teach bears to stay away from neighborhoods and your backyard pets, so it’s best to use them if there are bear sightings in your area. (Colorado Parks & Wildlife)
Related Read: Do Bears Make Good Pets? Everything You Need to Know!
The number of how many people die from bear attacks is actually very small. However, the number of bear attacks are starting to rise as the bear and human populations continue to grow and encroach onto each other’s habitats and communities. Statistics also show that dog owners are more likely to experience a bear attack.
The best way to avoid an attack is to stay away from bears. To protect your pets, use deterrents to discourage them from approaching your neighborhood and your lawn and backyard.
Current research shows that the future implications of the relationship between bears and humans will increase in tension. Actions towards healthy coexistence are vital in order to prevent a rise in attacks.
Featured Image Credit: outdoorsman, Shutterstock
Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts’ knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.