DNR Says Black Bear Attacks On Humans Rare, But They Do Happen

The department says most black bears shy away from people.


Annapolis, Md (KM) Attacks by black bears on humans are very rare, but they do happen. That’s according to Harry Spiker, the State Black Bear Biologist with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. . He says in most cases, black bears  try to avoid people. “The bulk of the bears, the vast majority of them, run at the first sight or sound of a human,” he says.

But when those attacks occur, Spiker says it’s because bears have gotten  used to humans, and depend on them for food. “Some people, believe it or not, feed intentionally. It’s illegal to feed bears in Maryland. But some people want to see the bears and they do it intentionally. Others  feed unintentionally either by allowing bears to gains unimpeded access to trash or bird feeders, “he says.

If you want to keep bears off your property, Spiker says don’t put up bird feeders in the summer months, and keep your trash stored away until the day the hauler comes by to pick it up.

Another way black bears can attack humans is when they’re startled. “Oftentimes, the scenario involves somebody stepping out their door at night and the bear is on the porch getting into the bird feeder. It’s get startled, swats and runs,” says Spiker.

A third way is black bears encountering dogs. Spiker says these two animals do not get along very well “The dog off leash is much more likely to encounter a bear,” says Spiker. “what we see is the dog will confront the bear. When the bear turns to attack a dog, it will return to the person which will cause the bear to attack the person.”

Spiker says it’s best to keep your dog on a leash.

Recently, a woman was attacked by a black bear near Rum Springs Road in the Myersville areas. She was taken to a hospital for treatment of her injurers, and has been released. DNR says it’s possible the woman’s two dogs startled the bear. DNR is looking for the bear.

Sometimes people see black bears while walking in the woods. Spiker says there are two types of encounters when it come to bears. The first one is where the animal doesn’t know you are there. “The ones where the bear  does not know you’re there: in which case, I’d say keep your distance and enjoy the view,” he says.

But if the bear knows you’re there, Spiker says make yourself large; keep an eye on the bear  and back away. “You don’t want to stare him down because that could be seen as a sign of aggression,” he says. Also, give the bear enough room to escape.

If you come into contact with a bear, Spiker say use what you have to fight it off. “Should the situation escalate and the bear makes contact, fight back,:” he says. Spiker says in most cases, the bear is trying to subdue a threat and run off.   It does not see you as a source of food.



By Kevin McManus