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Killer Bear In California… Lessons Learned From Aggressive Bear Encounters

Last year a 71-year-old woman named Patrice Miller was killed by a black bear in Downieville, California.  It had broken into her home and apparently attacked her while she was in bed.  Such an attack is the first fatal bear attack to be documented in California.

The bear, whom Miller had referred to as “Big Bastard,” had acted aggressively in the months prior to killing her.  Later, it was trapped and euthanized.

Although there is speculation that Miller’s vegetable garden and compost (in addition to not taking out her trash immediately) might have attracted the bear, it should be noted that Downieville has experienced an increase in black bear sightings.  In fact, nearly 40% of California’s 65,000 black bears live in the Sierra Nevada region (where Downieville is located).

So black bear sightings (as well as attacks) have increased since the black bear population has also increased, as is the case with the brown bear population.  In fact, there have been 131 verified fatalities in North America due to attacks by black bears and brown bears during the twentieth century, with nearly half of them occurring in the 1980s and 1990s*.  In addition, there were at least 71 fatalities from attacks by black bears and brown bears during the twenty-first century.*  Some of these attacks are predatory, others occur due to the bear feeling threatened or startled, and some attacks occur to the bear foraging for food (e.g. cashing in on a hunter’s gut piles, looking through the trash or visiting campsites, or even consuming someone who was already dead).  Not all attacks by bears are fatal, but it is unclear what the overall number is because some attacks are not reported while others are hard to verify.

According to one expert, there are two types of bears that are aggressive. The first type of bear is purely wild.  But the second type of bear is more dangerous since it has never seen a human before. Although a majority of the second type might try to avoid contact with humans, some of them will try to decide if a human is potential prey.  Then such bears will begin stalking people, and can eventually try to ambush someone. In addition, such bears are either famished to have been beat up by a larger bear and thus want to assert its dominance- whether it be over man or beast.

Another reason there has been an increase in bear attacks is because of restrictions on hunting.  As a result, some bears have no fear of humans, and thus they become aggressive.

Thus, bears need to be hunted in order to avoid such attacks.

(* includes grizzly bears)



Andrew Linn

Andrew Linn is a member of the Owensboro Tea Party and a former Field Representative for the Media Research Center. An ex-Democrat, he became a Republican one week after the 2008 Presidential Election. He has an M.A. in history from the University of Louisville, where he became a member of the Phi Alpha Theta historical honors society. He has also contributed to and Right Impulse Media.