Black Bears Aren’t “Hunting” Humans Like Theory In Canada But Attacks Increased In Colorado This Year

Unlike Canada where a retired wildlife official speculated that black bears are now hunting humans, Colorado authorities don't believe that's happening but black bear attacks on people did increase this year.

Mark Heinz

December 21, 20225 min read

Black bear
(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

A bizarre chain reaction that started with a black bear popping a beach ball in the middle the night at a Colorado campsite led to a woman getting swatted in the head by the bear, a wildlife agent said. 

It was one of three documented black bear attacks that resulted in human injuries in Colorado this year, Rachel Gonzales, a spokeswoman for the Colorado Parks and Wildlife department, told Cowboy State Daily. 

Despite some harrowing grizzly bear attacks, black bears didn’t hurt anybody in Wyoming this year, Wyoming Game and Fish large carnivore specialist Dan Thompson told Cowboy State Daily. 

Colorado, as well as other areas with denser human populations and growing numbers of black bears, has seen more conflicts between black bears and people, including some attacks, Thompson noted. 

Retired Canadian wildlife agent Murray Bates recently wrote that during his 34-year-career, he saw a notable uptick in instances of black bears deliberately “hunting” people – in some instances killing and eating humans.

Beach Ball Started The Whole Thing

Colorado’s strangest black bear attack happened this summer at the Monument Lake Resort campground, roughly 37 miles west of Trinidad, Gonzales said. 

A bear wandered into a campsite at about 2 a.m., where a couple with a toddler daughter were sleeping in a tent. 

The bear stepped on beach ball and popped it. That produced a loud bang that apparently startled the bear and also scared the child, Gonzales said. 

The mother embraced the child and sat up, trying to comfort her. In doing so, the mother “brushed against the side of the tent,” Gonzales said. 

That was evidently the last straw for the bear, which took a swipe at the tent.

The bear’s claws ripped through the tent fabric and scratched the woman in the head, Gonzales said. The child was unhurt, and the woman was lucky enough to suffer only minor injuries. 

“She refused medical treatment at the scene,” Gonzales said. 

Two Other Coloradoans Mauled

Other Colorado black bear attack victims, both in the town of New Castle, weren’t so lucky. 

In August, a woman noticed that the lid had been torn off her back yard hot tub at about 2 a.m., according to Parks and Wildlife reports. She went outside to replace the lid, and a female black bear came down out of a tree, charged at the woman and swiped her. The woman was hospitalized with lacerations to her arm and back. 

Newcastle Police officers and wildlife agents discovered the bear had three cubs. They killed the female and one of the cubs, then tranquilized the other two cubs and took them to a wildlife rehabilitation facility, Parks and Wildlife Reported. 

In October, a man heard a noise in his back yard, armed himself with a firearm and went to investigate, Parks and Wildlife reported. He startled a black bear, which charged him, knocked him down and bit and scratched him in his chest and one of his hands and arms. 

The man managed to fire three shots during the attack. He couldn’t tell if he hit the bear, but the shots scared it away. He was taken to a hospital and treated for his injuries. 

Wildlife agents and law enforcement officers tried tracking that bear with the intent of killing it, but couldn’t find it, Parks and Wildlife reported. 

October Also Harrowing In Wyoming

Wyoming also had bear trouble in October, including three people getting mauled in two separate grizzly attacks. 

Chuck Long, a hunter and retired wildlife agent from Arkansas, told Cowboy State Daily that he had chosen to hunt in the Bighorn Mountains because grizzlies aren’t thought to be there. 

Even so, he had a run-in with a black bear as he and his hunting partner were approaching an elk carcass in the timber. He said the bear engaged him in a “standoff” before a warning shot from his hunting rifle prompted it to back off and slowly wander away.

That same month, Northwest College wrestlers Kendall Cummings and Brady Lowry were attacked and mauled by a grizzly bear near Cody. In an unprecedented act of bravery, Kendall tried to pull the bruin off Lowry, likely saving Lowry’s life.

Also in October, hunter Lee Francis of Evanston credited quick shooting with his 10 mm handgun for saving his life during a grizzly attack in the Gros Ventre mountains.

When the startled the bear in its den, it charged Francis and knocked him onto his back. He accidentally shot himself in the left foot while simultaneously firing and trying to kick the bear away. 

Despite the gunshot wound, Francis told Cowboy State Daily that he is convinced that the handgun saved his life, and he plans to keep carrying it in the back country. 

Share this article



Mark Heinz

Outdoors Reporter