In the 2000s, there were 27 fatal incidents involving bears in North America. 15 people died in Canada, three incidents in Alaska, two were in Tennessee, and single fatal attacks happened in New York, New Mexico, California, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Utah and Montana. Of the 27 situations, 17 of those attacks were perpetrated by black bears and 10 by grizzlies (I would have thought the other way around).
What can we learn from this? First, don’t go camping in Canada!? Seriously and statistically, hikers don’t have much to fear from Yogi and Boo Boo. At an average of under 3 fatalities a year, when millions of people go into the backcountry annually, the possibilities are pretty small that the hiker is going to find him/herself in a life and death battle with Gentle Ben. Now a camper might bearly escape the anger of a momma bear protecting her cubs or a hiker might even be embearassed when the animal steals his/her food sack, but death by bear is not too likely. Contrast these facts with the reality that 26 people get killed by dogs every year… and 90 people lose their lives annually by being hit with lightning, the chances of being mauled by a black bear while hiking on the A.T. are fairly insignificant.
Face a bear or get into a car? Death by auto accident per year in America – 42,000
The Claw or Poisoning? Drug related deaths per year in US – 39,000
Black Bear or Falling Down? Fatal falls – 25,000 annually
Fangs or Fires? 2,700 people die in fires each year in the USA (I think a famous bear once said, “Only you can prevent a forest fire”)
Eating or Being Eaten? Accidental death by choking each year – 2,500 (my chances of dying eating s’mores around the campfire are far greater than being attacked by bears.
Swimming or Fighting? 2,000 folks drown each year in America
Guns or Bear Hands? The number of deaths by accidental shootings is 600 per year.