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The DAILY DIRT - The nitty and the gritty of outdoor news

Ask A Bear: Which Park Has the Most Attacks?

Our resident bruin expert answers all your questions in our weekly feature, 'Ask A Bear.'

Q: I've heard that Glacier National Park is known for the most bear attacks in the U.S. Is that true?—Kathy Walter, via email

A: What is it with you people and attacks? Can't you just admire me for my majestic, uncompromising physical beauty? Fine, I get it—you love me because of the claws, teeth, insane power, etc., so I'll answer your question.

Since bear attacks can be tough to quantify, we usually follow fatalities, which can be tracked fairly easily. Out of the U.S. national parks, Glacier leads with the highest number of deaths over the last 100 years: 10. Yellowstone is second with seven, and Katmai is a distant third with two.

The reasons Glacier leads the pack aren't a mystery; combine the densest population of grizzlies in the Lower 48 with increasing visitation, and eventually you'll get human-bear encounters with tragic results. It's telling that most of the attacks occurred in the 60s and later—when visitation to the remote park grew. Yellowstone has more bears, but they have a much bigger ecosystem to move around in, and thus the populations isn't as dense and encounters aren't quite as likely (though recent events show they are very possible).

Alaskan parks don't have nearly the amount of fatal bear attacks you'd expect; here humans and bears tend to clash on the borders of civilization. The sheer amount of bears coexisting with humans contributes to its status as the most lethal state for bear attacks: 13 in the last century or so.

But as terrifying as bear attacks can seem, anybody who looks at those numbers can tell that they're so small, you might as well just concentrate on other things than my lethality—like my lustrous, beautiful coat and winning smile.

—BEAR

Got a question for the bear? Send it to askabear@backpacker.com.

READERS COMMENTS

Ric U.
Aug 30, 2010

Mr. Bear,

I would EXPECT to find your relatives in national parks. If you weren't there we would have to encourage you to stop making problems in daily world (a.k.a. "that's a 'bear'.") and move you into the wilds.

What concerns me is the bear interaction in park areas in smaller areas such as northeastern PA (black bears) where dumb humans from the cities, leave garbage out and wonder why you investigate looking for juicy pic-a-nic baskets and trash bins.

Say "hello" to Yogi and Boo-Boo for me.

Ric U.

Jim Boone
Aug 26, 2010

Mr. Bear -- I applaud your efforts to remove the hysteria around bear encounters. Bears are majestic creatures that make the woods more exciting, not more scary. Keep up the good work!

Davy Crockett
Aug 26, 2010

Do you have any stats on maulings, swipes, etc that were not fatal? The fatal numbers may be so low because a dead person can't live to tell about it.

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