More Bear Attacks Could Come As Food Sources Are Depleted

As the Grizzly population climbs, more hungry bears could show up at campsites.

ByABC News
August 27, 2010, 3:40 PM

Aug. 27, 2010— -- With permanent food sources becoming more and more scarce, the grizzly truth is more bears are likely to hunt for food around your campsite.

The Western Grizzly population has nearly tripled in the last 35 years in the Yellowstone National Park area, from under 200 to nearly 600. Their need for food and territory have caused them to spill out of the park's "Primary Conservation Area" (PCA).

Some wildlife authorities warn that this year with a shortage of food, specifically spawning cutthroat trout and the seeds from white bark pine trees, more hungry and potentially dangerous bears will be out scavenging.

Bear attacks have made headlines all summer, most recently when a captive bear in Ohio killed a caretaker.

In July, in Yellowstone National Park, a bear attacked three sleeping campers, killing one of them and injuring the others.

"About 2 o'clock in the morning, I felt the entire tent just fly two to three feet," said Ronald Singer, one of the bear attack victims.

"Next thing I know, this bear is chewing on my arm," said Deb Freele, another victim. "I screamed. He bit harder, I screamed harder."

Another hiker was mauled and killed by a bear in June, again near Yellowstone.

When a bear kills a human in the wild, park authorities hunt the bear and put it down because they don't want a bear running wild with a taste for human flesh.

"We won't be satisfied until we prove we have the right bear, and until we catch all the cubs," said Andrea Jones of Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.

Even bears who have been exposed to the lights and noise of a movie set can be deadly. Such was the case with Rocky, an enormous, well-trained bear who had appeared on several TV commercials and movies -- including one starring Will Ferrell.

In 2008, experienced animal trainer Stephen Miller was play wrestling with Rocky for a website promotion video. Suddenly, Rocky turned violent and mauled Miller, who collapsed and died in front of the camera crew within minutes of the attack.

"He was like my younger brother, you know, I raised him, he looked up to me; just dying in your arms like that, there is no greater pain," said Miller's cousin Randy Miller.

Wildlife officials considered having the bear killed, but decided in the end it was an accident. Rocky has since been restricted from working in films and television, but Miller hopes to get permission to get him back to work soon.

"I have put in my will, that if anything were ever to happen to me with one of my animals, not to blame the animal, not to put the animal down," said Miller.