Thursday, May 10, 2012

Why are Yellowstone bears eating humans?

Posted By on Thu, May 10, 2012 at 10:55 AM

Missoula author Jeff Hull has a haunting story in the latest issue of Outside magazine about four fatal incidents over the past two summers at Yellowstone National Park. In two instances, bears partially ate their victims, leading some to think they're increasingly hungry and looking at us, humans, to satisfy their appetite. Before that theory gives you nightmares, know that Hull makes clear that it's a much more complicated issue.

The article covers a lot of ground and differing opinions on why this is happening. There's talk of needing better education in the park (some attacks were the result of hikers not following clear rules) and dealing with the unprecedented loss of whitebark pine trees (a major food source for bears). There's no one reason why these attacks are happening, but there is an understanding that this issue will probably not disappear.

“We have more bears in more places, so the encounter frequency is going up, the probability of running into a bear is going up,” says Chris Servheen, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service grizzly bear recovery coordinator, in the article. “We have grizzly bears occupying places they haven’t occupied in 100 years.”

It's worth reading Hull's entire article. Then, to help educate yourself and maybe calm your nerves, read Outside's helpful "How to Handle a Grizzly Bear Encounter" online sidebar. You know, just in case.

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