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List of Fatal Black Bear Attacks in North America Over the Last 20 Years

Lynn Chamberlain, Utah DWR

Twenty-five fatal black bear attacks have occurred in North America during the last 20 years. Here are the stories behind each.

Black bear attacks seem to be on the rise as of late. And as we spend more time outdoors, run-ins with bears are expected to become more frequent. Most interactions, however, result in a quick parting of ways. And fortunately, the statistics show that if a mauling does occur, the chances of it turning fatal are relatively slim. Over the last twenty years, black bears have killed twenty-five people across North America. That works out to 1.25 fatal attacks per year.

The following list showcases the twenty-five fatal black bear attacks that have occurred between 1997 and 2017. Some interesting statistics: the youngest person killed was a child of only five months of age; the oldest, a 93-year-old female. The average age is 41. The most deaths have occurred in British Columbia, Canada (6), with Quebec, Canada (3) and Alaska (3) tied for second most. Fourteen females have been killed and 11 males.

Fatal Black Bear Attacks (1997 – 2017)

* Erin Johnson (27) – June 19, 2017 – Pogo Mine, Alaska

Johnson, a contract employee for Pogo Mine, was killed while collecting soil samples. The bear was shot and killed by mine personnel.

* Patrick Cooper (16) – June 18, 2017 – near Anchorage, Alaska

Cooper was chased and mauled by a bear while running in the juniors’ division of a popular trail running race. Cooper texted his family after completing the race, to say he was being followed by a bear. Searchers found the runner’s remains 500 yards from the trail and shot the bear in the face with a shotgun, which nonetheless scared the bear and forced him into the woods away from the body.

* Daniel Ward O’Connor (27) – May 10, 2015 – near Mackenzie, British Columbia

Ward was killed by a bear while he slept near the fire pit at his campsite. His fiancée who slept in a nearby motorhome discovered his partially consumed body the following morning. The bear was later shot and killed by conservation officers.

* Darsh Patel (22) – September 21, 2014 – near West Milford, New Jersey

Patel was about to begin hiking with four friends in Apshawa Preserve when they met a man and a woman at the entrance who told them there was a bear nearby and advised them to turn around. They continued on, found the bear, and Patel and another hiker took photos. They turned and began walking away, but the bear followed them. The hikers ran in different directions, and found that Patel was missing when they regrouped. Authorities found Patel’s body after searching for two hours. A black bear found in the vicinity was killed. According to the State Department of Environmental Protection, this was the first fatal bear attack on a human in New Jersey on record.

* Lorna Weafer (36) – May 7, 2014 – near Fort McMurray, Alberta

Weafer, a Suncor worker was attacked at the remote North Steepbank oil sands mine site while walking back to work after a trip to the washroom. Efforts by co-workers to scare off the bear were unsuccessful. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police shot and killed the bear upon arrival. A preliminary investigation determined that the attack was predatory.

* Robert Weaver (64) – June 6, 2013 – George Lake near Delta Junction, Alaska

Weaver was attacked by a black bear while walking back to his cabin on George Lake, according to his wife, who was able to flee inside the cabin and was uninjured. A 230 lb adult male black bear on the scene was killed by troopers and found to have some of Weaver’s remains in his stomach.

* Lana Hollingsworth (61) – July 25, 2011 – Pinetop-Lakeside, Arizona

Hollingsworth was attacked by a 250 lb black bear while walking her dog at a country club. Nearly a month later and after eleven surgeries, she died from a massive brain hemorrhage, which doctors believe was a result of the attack. The bear was tracked, shot, and killed.

* Bernice Adolph (72) – June 2011 – near Lillooet, British Columbia

Adolph’s remains were found by police dogs after she was reported missing. She was an elder in the Xaxli’p First Nation.There was evidence that bears fed on Adolph’s remains, and tried to enter her house. An autopsy confirmed that she died from a bear attack. Five bears suspected of being involved were killed by conservation officers, and DNA tests confirmed that one of the dead bears killed Adolph.

fatal black bear attacks
Justin Hoffman

* Donna Munson (74) – August 6, 2009 – Ouray, Colorado

Munson had been feeding bears for a decade, and was repeatedly warned by wildlife officials. After a bear was injured in a fight with an older and bigger bear, Munson left food out to help the injured bear. The older bear came back to Munson’s property, forced its way past a wire fence, and mauled Munson. Later, wildlife officials killed two bears on Munson’s property. One of the bears had a necropsy which revealed evidence that it consumed Munson.

* Cecile Lavoie (70) – May 30, 2008 – near La Sarre, Quebec

After Lavoie didn’t return to her cabin following a solo fishing outing, her husband went looking for her. He found a bear dragging her body into the woods.

* Robin Kochorek (31) – July 20, 2007 – Panorama Mountain Resort, British Columbia

Kochorek was reported missing after mountain biking. A black bear was found near her corpse the morning after her disappearance. The bear was shot on sight by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

* Samuel Evan Ives (11) – June 17, 2007 – Uinta National Forest, Utah

Ives was grabbed from a family tent in American Fork Canyon, and mauled. State wildlife officials killed the bear, which had entered the campsite the night before. Ives’ family sued the U.S. Forest Service because there was no warning about the bear’s presence.  A judge awarded the family $1.95 million. It was the first known fatal black bear attack in Utah.

* Elora Petrasek (6) – April 13, 2006 – Cherokee National Forest, Tennessee

A bear attacked the family at a waterfall near a campground. Petrasek’s mother and brother were also injured. The bear was trapped and killed, and an unrelated bear was mistakenly killed.

* Jacqueline Perry (30) – September 6, 2005 – Missinaibi Lake Provincial Park, Ontario

Perry was killed in an attack at a remote campsite. Her husband was seriously injured trying to protect her with a Swiss Army knife, and later was given a Star of Courage award from Governor General Michaelle Jean. Ministry of Natural Resources staff shot and killed the bear near the area where the fatal attack occurred.

* Harvey Robinson (69) – August 26, 2005 – Selkirk, Manitoba

Robinson was fatally mauled while picking plums north of Winnipeg, Manitoba. Robinson’s family were investigating the area with an RCMP officer later that day, and were also attacked. The officer shot and killed the bear.

* Merlyn Carter (71) – June 14, 2005 – 167 miles southeast of Yellowknife, North West Territories

Carter was found dead in the main cabin of his fishing camp. Carter’s son came to the cabin the day after the attack, and shot and killed the bear.

* Maurice Malenfant (77) – September 29, 2002 – Saint-Zenon-du-Lac-Humqui, Quebec

Malenfant was attacked in his campsite in the Gaspé region of Quebec.

* Christopher Bayduza (31) – September 1, 2002 – near Fort Nelson, British Columbia

After going for a walk behind a trailer, Bayduza was attacked at a remote oil rigging site in northeastern British Columbia.

* Ester Schwimmer (5 months) – August 19, 2002 – Fallsburgh, New York

A bear knocked Schwimmer from her stroller, which was near the porch of her family’s vacation home. The bear carried the infant in its mouth to the woods. Schwimmer died of neck and head injuries.

* Adelia Maestras Trujillo (93) – August 18, 2001 – Mora, New Mexico

A bear broke through a glass pane to gain entry into Trujillo’s house and killed her. Trujillo’s body was found in her kitchen. The bear was shot .5 miles from the house.

* Kyle Harry (18) – June 3, 2001 – 16 miles east of Yellowknife, Northwest Territories

Harry was attacked while with a group at a rural campsite 16 miles east of Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories, Canada.

* Mary Beth Miller (24) – July 2, 2000 – near Valcartier, Quebec

Miller was attacked while on a biathlon training run in a wooded area on a military base. The bear was trapped and killed four days later.

* Glenda Ann Bradley (50) – May 21, 2000 – Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee

Bradley was attacked and partially consumed by a mother bear and a cub, 1.5 miles upstream from Elkmont, Tennessee. It was the first fatal bear attack in a southeastern U.S. National Park. While hovering over Bradley’s corpse, the bears were shot and killed by park rangers.

* Raymond Kitchen (56), Patti McConnell (37) – August 14, 1997 – Liard River Hot Springs Provincial Park, British Columbia

McConnell died from injuries while defending herself and her son from a black bear attack on a boardwalk to the hot springs. Kitchen heard the attack in progress, and was killed while attempting to rescue. McConnell’s son and a 20-year-old man were also injured. The bear was shot while standing over the victims.

McConnell’s son received a Star of Courage for his attempt to save his mother. Kitchen also received the honor, posthumously.

Want to go further back? Here’s a good link from Wikipedia.

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List of Fatal Black Bear Attacks in North America Over the Last 20 Years