More often than not, when you think about bears, you think about cuddly and cute balls of fur. However, in reality, bears are extremely dangerous and wouldn’t shy away from attacking other animals or humans. In fact, even despite their diminishing numbers, coming across a bear will most likely have fatal consequences.
Unfortunately, due to human expansion into bear territory and climate change, bear-on-humans attacks are more common than ever. This article will take a look at some of the most dangerous bears to find out what makes them so deadly.
1. Grizzly Bears
Grizzly bears are by far one of the most aggressive and dangerous species of bear that you can encounter. They usually live in the northern and western regions of the US, as well as in Canada and Alaska. What makes grizzly bears so dangerous is their impressive size, as they can weigh up to 600 pounds and have a total length of 6.5 feet. And if that wasn’t enough, grizzly bears are also feared for their powerful jaws and long claws.
But why are grizzly bears so aggressive? Simply put, due to their size and unsuitable claws, they have a hard time climbing trees. Therefore, when facing a threat, they will either stand their ground or attack the threat themselves. And since they are extremely territorial, they will do everything they can to protect their domain and cubs.
Fortunately, grizzly bears are easily recognizable by their iconic brown fur, which features gray and golden tips. So, if you come across this massive and aggressive type of bear, you should better turn around and avoid it. Otherwise, you may not live to tell the tale of your almost fatal encounter.
Incidents and Motives
Generally speaking, grizzly bears won’t follow and attack humans unless they perceive them as threats. Yet, they usually explore areas where they smell food. That was one of the main causes of the tragic 1967 Glacier National Park incident. Even so, people usually avoid areas prone to grizzly bear attacks, which is why incidents are usually pretty rare.
However, over the past few years, grizzly bear attacks have become more and more common. For instance, in 2011, John Wallace and Brian Matayoshi were killed two months apart by a grizzly bear. What’s scary about those attacks was that they were the first grizzly-caused fatalities in Yellowstone park in 25 years. And while the bear in question is no longer alive, grizzly bear death rates are still climbing in the United States.
2. Polar Bears
Similar to their brown counterparts, polar bears are extremely aggressive, dangerous, and fearless. They are the largest land carnivore and are found all throughout the Arctic Circle. However, due to recent climate change, polar bears are moving further south, looking for new food sources and a more stable home.
When it comes to their appearance, polar bears have white fur that sometimes features subtle shades of brown. Their size is very impressive, as their height can reach 5 feet when standing on all four legs. Yet, when they stretch out, the height of a polar bear can reach more than 10 feet. And with an average weight of 1000 pounds, it’s safe to say that polar bears are one of the biggest species of bears that you can encounter.
What’s interesting about polar bears is that they are one of the few bear species that is not afraid of humans. As a matter of fact, they will hunt humans until they catch and eat them. And while running away can seem like a reliable solution, no one can outrun a polar bear. That’s why you should do your best to avoid coming in contact with polar bears, even if they are just cubs.
Incidents and Motives
Luckily, humans rarely come across polar bears, mostly because the latter live in extreme weather conditions. Still, an increasing amount of polar bears are moving south, searching for food, which often leads to human encounters. And since polar bears are apex predators, a lot of those incidents end in the loss of human life.
But how common are polar bear attacks? According to the Wildlife Society Bulletin, there have been 73 attacks caused by polar bears between 1879 and 2014. What’s even more shocking is that more than 20 of those attacks have resulted in death and the rest in injuries. Additionally, between 2010-2014, polar bears were responsible for at least 15 attacks, which is an all-time high in a four-year period.
As a result of the increasing number of polar bear incidents, locals have put together polar bear patrols in some places like Wales and Alaska. Their mission is to chase away polar bears that get too close to towns by using a variety of non-lethal deterrents. And while there aren’t any official numbers or statistics, locals praise the polar bear patrols for preventing dozens of bear attacks.
3. Kamchatka Brown Bears
Kamchatka brown bears are a subspecies of brown bears that live in Eurasia. As their name suggests, Kamchatka bears are covered with brown fur, giving them a cute and even cuddly appearance. However, with a body length of over 8.5 feet and a weight of up to 1400 pounds, these brown bears are anything but cute. In fact, they are the biggest and most dangerous bears in Europe.
But why are Kamchatka bears so aggressive? To put it simply, they are extremely territorial and very protective of their cubs. Furthermore, brown bears have an unpredictable temperament, meaning that you can’t know for sure if they plan on charging at you or just standing their ground. Therefore, anyone who gets too close to their domain will most likely have a lethal encounter with those apex predators.
Incidents and Motives
It’s worth noting that Kamchatka brown bears don’t usually attack humans and avoid getting into contact with them. That’s why, until recently, brown bear attacks have been quite rare. Yet, as humans continue to expand into their territory, brown bear encounters are becoming more common. And even though these bears may sometimes avoid conflict, they will do anything to protect their territory.
For example, in Romania, brown bears are proving to be quite a problem, with over three deaths as a result of attacks in less than a month. Additionally, Romanians claim that while bears didn’t use to venture into farms, they now steal animals and wreak havoc on local communities.
As a consequence, Romania and other nearby countries are seeking to encourage bear hunting. In contrast, Finland is looking for more bear-friendly solutions and wants to promote human-bear coexistence.
Nonetheless, as the human population grows all over the world, it becomes increasingly hard for brown bears to avoid coming into contact with humans. Not only that, but poachers are also constantly looking for brown bears, as their fur is very valuable, which pushes the bears even further from their habitat. And while they sometimes adjust their behavior in order to steer clear of humans, it’s only a matter of time until the next tragic incident.
4. Sun Bears
Sun bears are a smaller yet very aggressive species of bear that lives in Southeast Asia. As a matter of fact, they usually weigh about 150 pounds, making them seem friendly. But don’t be deceived by their cuddly appearance, as sun bears are one of the fiercest types of bears that you can ever encounter.
However, unlike polar bears, sun bears don’t have a taste for human flesh. Instead, they use their long tongues to extract insects from crevices and honey from hives. Therefore, they are omnivores and prefer plants to meat. Even so, they are still extremely dangerous and should be avoided at all costs.
Incidents and Motives
Although sun bears don’t usually eat human flesh, they are one of the few species of bear that can attack without provocation. That’s why, between 2000 and 2010, there have been at least 33 deaths due to sun bear attacks in Mizoram, India, alone.
What’s even scarier is the fact that sun bears are relentless in their attacks. As a result, it’s almost impossible to escape once they start charging at you. For instance, in 2017, a sun bear attack lasted for almost an hour and was only stopped when a couple of locals banded together and chased the bear away.
Even though sun bears don’t usually leave their natural habitat, experts believe that they will become more aggressive and will eventually venture out in search of food, because of deforestation for oil palm plantations. Thus, it’s safe to assume that sun bear encounters will become more frequent and will lead to more casualties on both sides.
It’s important to mention that poachers are constantly on the hunt for sun bears, so it’s no wonder they are so aggressive towards people. But why are they targeted by poachers? Simply put, for poachers, every part of the sun bear is valuable, including its meat, teeth, claws, and even gallbladder. Yet, even with their population in decline, sun bears are still extremely lethal and you should avoid them.
5. American Black Bears
Black bears are another small yet dangerous species of bears that are known due to their unique black fur. When it comes to size, black bears can grow between 120 and 500 pounds, depending on the area they live in. And speaking of habitat, it’s worth noting that black bears can only be found in North America and are thought to have a total population of around 800,000 individuals.
Despite their aggressive look, black bears are not as dangerous as other species. In fact, they are more likely to try and climb a nearby tree instead of attacking or charging possible threats.
Nevertheless, due to their sharp claws and teeth, an encounter with a black bear can prove to be fatal, especially if you dare enter their territory.
Incidents and Motives
Generally speaking, black bear attacks are very rare and usually end up being similar to an encounter with a dog. As such, fatal black bear attacks usually occur once per year in North America. Further research shows that between 1900 and 2009, there have been 63 deadly black bear attacks on humans in America.
Additionally, according to Smithsonian Magazine, most black bear attacks occur in their northernmost habitats. Experts believe the reason for that phenomenon is the lack of food which stresses the bears, making them more aggressive. Additionally, northern bears are not used to humans like their southern relatives are, which might increase their adversity for humans.
Even though black bear attacks are fairly rare, they are still tragic and usually end up with human casualties. As an example, in 2019, a woman was killed by a black bear on Red Pine Island, Ontario, marking the first bear attack in the area in almost 15 years. And while the bear responsible for the tragedy is no longer alive, there are many more black bears out there that could cause a similar incident.
6. Panda Bears
More often than not, people see panda bears as the cutest, cuddliest, and most friendly species of bear. Yet, at the end of the day, pandas are bears, meaning that they can get pretty vicious when under threat. And while their diet consists of bamboo, pandas can always take a bite out of humans if their territory is under threat.
Fortunately, panda bears are usually rather docile and don’t attack other animals or humans. Still, they have an incredible bite that can injure or even kill possible threats. However, panda bears live mainly in temperate forests high in the mountains of southwest China, so the chance of encountering one in the wild is very small.
Incidents and Motives
Even if panda bear attacks in the wild are fairly rare, there are dozens of recorded attacks by bears in captivity. Between 2006 and 2009, three people were attacked by a panda at the Beijing City Zoo after entering its enclosure. In one of those incidents, the panda bear didn’t let go of the victim’s leg even after multiple attempts to break free from the bear’s grasp. And it was only with the help of a zookeeper that the victim could escape with only a few scratches.
As we said earlier, the bite of a panda bear is extremely powerful and can prove to be lethal. In fact, a Chinese local, Guan Quanzhi, was bitten in the leg by a giant panda during an attack. He had to undergo over seven hours of surgery in order to save his leg. Luckily, he was able to sue local authorities and receive $80,000 which was enough to cover his medical expenses.
So, keep in mind that even your local zoo’s panda bears are killing machines that could tear you apart. However, while wild bear attacks are rare, they are deadly, meaning that you should never search for wild panda bears.
7. Sloth Bears
Sloth bears are a lesser-known species of bears that live in India, Sri Lanka, and southern Nepal. Even though they are much smaller than most bears, weighing less than 500 pounds, sloth bears are extremely fierce. Appearance-wise, sloth bears have a unique combination of shaggy and dusty-black fur. Their face is also different from that of other bears, as it features a pale and short-haired muzzle.
Thankfully, their diet consists of insects and plants, meaning that they don’t usually hunt animals or humans for food. Yet, that doesn’t make them any less dangerous, as their sharp claws can easily tear apart human flesh. And while they are missing their front teeth, their canines are sharp enough to injure or even kill humans.
Incidents and Motives
Sadly, sloth bear attacks are extremely common, especially in the Mysore region of India. As a matter of fact, one such bear became infamously known as the Sloth Bear of Mysore after he killed 12 people and injured another 30 following an attack in 1957. According to locals, the bear became increasingly aggressive when encountering people and often attacked their faces. In some instances, the victims had their faces completely torn from the skull!
Ultimately, it took British hunter Kenneth Anderson over a month to track down and kill the Sloth Bear of Mysore. In the meantime, the bear managed to attack and murder a dozen more people, becoming the deadliest bear in India. What’s even more gruesome is that while sloth bears don’t usually eat meat, this particular bear partially ate at least three of its victims.
Besides the Sloth Bear of Mysore, bear attacks are fairly regular throughout India. In fact, some experts believe that sloth bears might be the world’s deadliest bears. Yet, since the Indian government doesn’t keep any records of fatal bear attacks, it’s hard to prove that statement. The only thing we know for sure is that thousands of people have been attacked by sloth bears in the last century, with hundreds of attacks resulting in the loss of human life.