When it comes to black bear attacks, unfortunately, there are sometimes only two outcomes—either the human survives or the bear does. With bears coming out of their winter hibernation, they are likely more aggressive than usual and willing to put up a fight for a meal. That’s what happened when a bear entered a California resident’s home this past week.
With an unparalleled sense of smell, black bears can locate food better than almost any other mammal. Their noses are seven times better than the average dog. While they primarily dwell in forest edges and clearings, bears will venture into human territory if it guarantees food.
As omnivores, black bears rely mostly on plant material, while only 15% of their diet relies on animal protein. However, they tend to eat just about everything, which is why residents and tourists find them rooting through garbage cans at campsites or homes.
This likely attracted the bear to the California resident’s home, located in Meyers, south of South Lake Tahoe. At around eleven at night, the bear broke into the house and attacked the resident. In an effort of self defense, the Californian shot the bear, which quickly retreated.
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife found the bear the following morning in critical condition and humanely euthanized it. Unfortunately, aggressive black bear sightings are increasing in number as more housing in California develops, threatening the bears’ habitat and foraging grounds.
Repercussions of Black Bear Behavior
While the black bear in this case did indeed attack the resident, not all interactions with bears are as aggressive. In fact, hikers often misinterpret bears’ body language and actions, particularly “bluff charges.”
“Bluff charges are far more common than actual attacks, and are used to scare off a potential threat. They are generally broken off a few feet away, sometimes accompanied by stamping on the ground,” Western Wildlife Organization states.
Another common misinterpretation is when a bear stands on its hind legs. Although people usually see this as a threatening stance, this usually means the bear is trying to get a better view because of its limited vision.
Humans tend to misconstrue docile behavior of black bears as well. Just seven miles north of the home invasion, beachgoers shared the beach with a family of bears at Lake Tahoe. A sow, or mother bear, brought her three cubs to the beach while she wandered nearby. The cubs played in the water, inches away from humans, as bystanders recorded the interaction.
Although the mother bear seemed indifferent towards the people, the close encounter can still be detrimental to both species.
“Allowing bears to become comfortable around people can lead to unwanted activity including breaking into cars and houses or approaching people who are eating outdoors,” the CDFW warned in a recent press release.