Brown bear attacks on humans have increased significantly and are more frequent at high bear and low human population densities.
A new paper published in the journal Scientific Reports examines brown bear attacks on humans worldwide between 2000 and 2015.
Researchers tallied 664 attacks on humans during the 15-year study period, including 183 in North America, 291 in Europe, and 190 in Russia, Iran, and Turkey.
There were more than 60 other attacks in Japan, Nepal, and southeastern Europe in which not enough information was available for their inclusion in the analysis.
The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service recommends that if you surprise a grizzly bear at close range, drop a nonfood item (like a hat or bandanna) on the ground and slowly back away.
Speak softly, but avoid eye contact, and never run from a bear. If the bear charges, remain standing. Carry bear spray and be ready to use it. If a bear makes contact with you, drop to the ground and play dead.
California’s Tahoe Basin is a spectacular place to live and attracts millions of outdoor recreationists each year. The Sierra Nevada is prime bear habitat with an estimated population of 10,000 to 15,000 American black bears.
With the onset of warmer weather conditions, bears are beginning to leave their winter dens in search of food. When bears emerge from hibernation, they are very hungry and must eat to make up for calories lost during winter.
As more people live in and frequent bear country, an abundance of unnatural food sources become available to bears. Bears are attracted to anything scented and/or edible. Improperly stored food and garbage are temptations few bears can resist.
Once bears gain access to human food or trash, they will continue to seek it out. They become less cautious of people and may display unusually bold behavior when trying to get to human or pet food. Bears that have become indifferent or habituated to the presence of people may cause property damage and threaten public safety.
Residents and visitors can help keep our bears wild and reduce potential conflicts between bears and humans by acting responsibly in bear country and properly storing food and trash.
At National Forest campgrounds in the Lake Tahoe Basin, visitors are required to store food in bear-resistant containers (storage lockers/bear boxes), dispose of trash in dumpsters and close and lock these containers or risk fines, jail time, or both.
California and Nevada law prohibits the feeding of any big game mammal. Proper food storage is also required by law in California State Parks. Food, beverages, scented items or ice chests left unattended may be confiscated and a citation may be issued. Visitors that violate these rules may be ejected from the park.
All counties in Nevada that border Lake Tahoe have ordinances in place prohibiting residents from allowing wildlife access to garbage. Citations and fines can be issued for code violations.
The following are tips for safeguarding homes, long-term rentals, vacation home rentals or timeshares (if permitted by the property owner):
- Never feed wildlife. This encourages unnatural and harmful foraging behavior.
- Purchase, store all trash in, and properly close bear-resistant garbage containers, preferably bear boxes. Inquire with local refuse companies about new bear box incentives and payment programs. Visit www.southtahoerefuse.com/Bear-Aware.htmland/or www.ndow.org/Nevada_Wildlife/Bear_Logic/for more information.
- Never leave groceries, animal feed, or anything scented in vehicles. Bears can open vehicle doors and they may cause damage trying to gain entrance if there are scented items inside.
- Keep barbecue grills clean and stored in a garage or shed when not in use.
- Keep doors and windows closed and locked when the home is unoccupied.
- Vegetable gardens, compost piles, orchards, and chickens may attract bears. Use electric fences to keep bears out where allowed. Refrain from hanging bird feeders.
- If neighborhoods experience bear activity, consider using electric doormats and/or electric fencing on windows and/or doors where allowed. Electrified windows and doors should have signs posted for safety and to alert the public and emergency personnel.
- If a bear enters your home when you are present, keep out of its way and do not block its escape route.
Tips for safeguarding campsites against bear encounters:
- Never feed wildlife.
- Always store food (including pet food), drinks, toiletries, coolers, cleaned grills, cleaned dishes, cleaning products, and all other scented items in the bear-resistant containers (storage lockers/bear boxes) provided at campsites. New bear-resistant coolers that come equipped with padlock devices should always be locked to meet bear-resistant requirements.
- Clean the barbecue grill after each use and store properly.
- Always place trash in bear-resistant dumpsters in campgrounds or in bear-resistant containers at campsites (storage lockers/bear boxes), and close and lock after each use.
- Never leave food or scented items unattended in campsites, tents, or vehicles. Bears can open vehicle doors and they may cause damage trying to gain entrance if there are scented items inside.
- Never leave trash at campsites.
Tips for hikers and backpackers:
- Hike in groups and keep an eye on small children.
- Keep dogs on leash. Off-leash dogs can provoke bears to respond defensively.
- Watch for signs of bears, such as bear scat along trails or claw marks on trees. Stay alert. Make noise while on trails so that bears know you are there and can avoid you.
- Never approach bears or cubs. Always, keep a safe distance.
- Store food in bear-resistant food storage canisters while recreating in the backcountry.