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Black Bear Attacks – Rare, But Not Impossible

Lewis and Clark Today

Recently, an 150-pound black bear attacked a hiker in a Virginia state park. But does that mean we shouldn’t go into the woods?

News of a recent black bear attack in western Virginia has begun circulating. The female bear bit and scratched an adult female hiker on Saturday evening at Douthat State Park, near Clifton Forge.

Officials from the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries tracked and dispatched the offending animal. This could mark the state’s first unprovoked bear attack, ever.

One is reminded of Aristotle’s infinite monkey theorem. Paraphrased, it goes like this: enough monkeys, pecking on enough typewriters, over enough time, will almost assuredly create the completed works of Shakespeare. Only in this case one must substitute enough bears, interacting with enough people, and sooner or later someone will get hurt. Saturday, it happened.

Unfortunately for the ursine species, humans almost always overestimate the danger involved in potential interactions with black bears. Maybe it’s because of an inborn, primal respect for bears. More than likely it’s due to the validity of such fear when dealing with the black bear’s close cousin, the grizzly.

Black bears are not nearly as dangerous as people perceive. Dr. Stephen Herrero of the University of Calgary has the data to back it up. He reports that black bear attacks are responsible for approximately one death every two years in all of North America.

Falling down the stairs kills over 1,000 people a year in the U.S. alone! Dog attacks and bee stings are also much more dangerous than black bears. It is doubtful that many people fear these things before going outside.

Black bears are wildlife and can thus be unpredictable; however, the odds of being injured by one are extremely low.

Before allowing fear of a black bear attack to prevent one from going into the woods, a person should first consider moving into a single-story home. And maybe locking oneself inside a padded room.

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Black Bear Attacks – Rare, But Not Impossible