U.S.A. — Many successful defenses against attacks by bears on people are not recorded/reported as attacks because the bear is killed and reported as a legal hunting harvest. People who want to minimize the danger of bear attacks point out few people are killed by bears. Very few people are killed by bears because people are more effective killers than bears if people are allowed to keep and carry weapons. People have a natural affinity to keep and carry arms. The renowned bear researcher, Stephen Herrero, speculated as to why so few people are killed by black bears. Herrero, as reported in the adn.com, May 11, 2011:
“Given the strength and opportunistic predation by black bears one can ask why bears do not prey on people more often,” they wrote. “Part of the answer may be that bears that try to or do prey on people are usually killed and removed from a population’s gene pool, decreasing the frequency of any genes the individual might have had that could contribute to predatory attacks on people.”
When aggressive bears approach people who are hunting, they are often killed by the person who is hunting. This has been documented in a number of cases. For example, Kim Woodman was forced to kill a grizzly bear with his 10mm Glock in 2016. It was recorded as a defense of life and property in Alaska. While I interviewed him, Kim recounted having to kill a grizzly who was stalking him in 1992. He had a bear permit, but he wanted to get a moose for meat before he went bear hunting. The bear made the choice for him. He was stalking a moose when it happened. From Kim:
I saw a moose out on the swamp, real early in the morning.
I heard something behind me, and it was padding up on me. I had a bear tag, but I wanted a moose first. I had just enough time to swing the rifle around. I yelled at it, and got a real aggressive response. There were a lot of problem bears around, a bad berry year, a guy had gotten eaten by a bear.
The bear was so close that Kim could not use the scope on his .338 Winchester Magnum. He sighted down the side of the barrel. Trophy hunters do not shoot bears in the head. It ruins the skull as a trophy and makes the skull impossible to score for the record books. The bear was coming at him, but not full out. It was only 15 feet away when he shot. It went down as if the bullet had destroyed the brain, but the bullet had gone through the muscle alongside the skull, just nicking the bone. It knocked the bear out. Kim thought it was dead.
All of a sudden I heard a growl, so I went back in there, obviously you can’t leave a wounded bear around. It was whirling in a circle, tearing out chunks of the tundra.
I stuck the barrel up against its neck, and the 250 grain .338 did not make it out the other side of its neck.
The bear was tagged and recorded as a legal hunting harvest, not as a defense of life and property. There appears to be a preference to record bears shot in self-defense as legally harvested in Alaska because it avoids the necessity of a Defense of Life and Property report.
Marti Miller, an Alaskan geologist, had to kill a black bear in self-defense while she was a project leader in the United States Geological Survey. She had a hunting license for convenience. She was asked to tag the bear as a legal hunting kill instead of filing a Defense of Life and Property report. From AmmoLand:
When she reported the incident to the authorities, the officer suggested she put it on her hunting license (she routinely purchased a hunting license as a precaution). If she had done so, she would not have been required to fill out a defense of life and property report. But, she could not legally hunt that day, because she had flown in a helicopter, a quirk of Alaska hunting regulations.
Some Alaskan hunters are obtaining grizzly bear tags as a precaution, so if they have to shoot a bear in defense, they will not need to worry about legal entanglements. Trenton Hammon is an example. He did not wish to shoot the bear, but the bear would not be deterred. From meateaters.com:
By this point, Hammock had made up his mind: He would shoot the bear if she got within 20 feet of him and his kill. He had a valid brown bear tag in his pack, after all.
“This whole time she’s weaving through trees trying to sneak up to me, and I’m standing next to my deer trying to move around and keep something between us while also staying where I can still see her,” Hammock said. “I get this log in between me and her, and she’s coming directly for me. When she was about 20 feet away, I yelled as loud as I could again and threw a rock in her direction. My spot was that log. I was like, if she reaches right here I’m gonna have to shoot her. And so once she put both front feet on that log, I shot her right in the heart.”
Hammock notes there were times he encountered bears and had to fire warning shots which were sufficient to deter the bear. Because the warning shots were successful, they were not news. They were never reported or recorded. How many aggressive bears are shot and legally killed by hunters is unknown. Very few will be recorded as defensive situations because no one was killed, and the bear was recorded as being legally harvested. How many bears are deterred by warning shots is unknown, but the number is substantial. This parallels what is seen in the defensive use of firearms against humans. When the mere display of a firearm is sufficient to stop an aggressor, the action is seldom recorded. This results in an under-reporting of the defensive use of firearms. A major reason few people are killed by bears is because people are better killers than bears are if they are allowed to exercise their natural affinity to carry weapons, such as firearms.
The ability to make and use weapons elevates people above the animal kingdom. Some have characterized man as a tool-making and tool-using animal. It might be more correct to characterize man as a weapon-making and weapon-using animal. If people are artificially prevented from keeping and using weapons, more people will be killed by bears.
About Dean Weingarten:
Dean Weingarten has been a peace officer, a military officer, was on the University of Wisconsin Pistol Team for four years, and was first certified to teach firearms safety in 1973. He taught the Arizona concealed carry course for fifteen years until the goal of Constitutional Carry was attained. He has degrees in meteorology and mining engineering, and retired from the Department of Defense after a 30 year career in Army Research, Development, Testing, and Evaluation.