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Human Injuries Inflicted by Bears in Alberta: 1960-98
Stephen Herrero and Andrew Higgins
Vol. 14, No. 1 (2003), pp. 44-54
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3872956
Page Count: 11
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Between 1960 and 1998, bears caused 42 serious or fatal human injuries in the Province of Alberta--29 (69%) by grizzly (brown) bears (Ursus arctos) and 13 (31%) by American black bears (U. americanus). Considering Alberta's estimated bear population--about 1,000 grizzly bears and 38,000-39,000 black bears--these numbers suggest that the grizzly bears are the more dangerous of the 2 species. Serious and fatal bear-inflicted injuries increased in number in Alberta, including its national parks, each decade, from 7 during the 1960s to 13 during the 1990s, an increase proportional to the province's human population growth during that period. Of all bear-inflicted serious injuries and fatalities, roughly half (52%, 22 of 42) occurred in Alberta's national parks, and 95% of these (21 of 22) were caused by grizzly bears. All but 1 black bear attack (92%, 12 of 13) occurred outside the national parks. Two factors characterized grizzly bear-inflicted injuries in the national parks: (1) large numbers of visitors in grizzly bear habitat, and (2) difficulties in managing human food and garbage (particularly before the mid-1980s). The grizzly bear population found outside Alberta's national parks is estimated at about 4 times that found within park boundaries, but these bears on provincial lands inflicted only 28% (8 of 29) of the serious or fatal injuries. These data point to 2 primary needs: (1) the disproportionate occurrence of grizzly bear incidents within the national parks and the association of these injuries with high visitor numbers and food and garbage management difficulties highlight the continuing need to address these challenges in Alberta's national parks; and (2) the location of nearly all black bear attacks outside the national parks underlines the need for improved communication to people using black bear habitat regarding the rare but potential danger from attempted predation on people by black bears.