The Arizona Department of Game and Fish has given up the hunt for a bear that clawed a camper in her tent at a campground near Christopher Creek.
Hunters using dogs failed to pick up the scent of the black bear the day after the attack. Hunters then staked out the campground in hopes the bear would return, but the wily bruin stayed away.
The Forest Service has reopened the campground after having emptied the overflowing trash bins that lured the bear into the area in the first place.
The bear spent several days breaking open the trash bins before he returned in the middle of the night. The bear ripped a hole in the tent where a Valley couple and their dog were sleeping. The bear then clawed a 74-year-old woman on the head, before leaving.
The couple sought help from the campground host and then watched as the bear returned to the tent to paw at the bloody pillow she left behind in the tent.
She was treated for bruises and a laceration on her scalp.
The Arizona Department of Game and Fish effectively “owns” the state’s wildlife and routinely tracks down and kills bears, mountain lions and other predators that have injured or threatened humans.
The Forest Service closed the campground and emptied the trash bins quickly as Game and Fish Wildlife Manger David Daniels and two other game wardens first tried to track the bear, and then surveyed a wide area for tracks. When all efforts to locate the vamoosed bear failed, they staked out the campground for several nights before abandoning the effort.
Game and Fish spokesman Jim Paxon said that the severe drought has worked a hardship on wildlife, perhaps prompting the hungry bear to risk exposure to humans by raiding the trash bins in the campground.
Officials noted that the couple had followed expert advice in their food handling, leaving their supplies locked in their car instead of in the tent.
The attack represents one of seven documented attacks on humans by black bears in Arizona since 1990.
Brown bears, including grizzly bears, kill far more people than the smaller, more reclusive black bears. The last Arizona grizzly was killed by hunters about a century ago.
Black bears are far more likely to threaten and bluff than to actually attack humans. The great majority of attacks occur near campgrounds after bears have gotten used to foraging for food and trash dumps, backpacks and elsewhere.
They usually keep to themselves, weigh 125-400 pounds, forage mostly at dawn and dusk and depend heavily on acorns, berries, insects and cactus fruits.
However, black bears do sometimes attack — and even kill — humans.
Most recently in Arizona, a black bear killed Lana Hollingsworth, 61, in Pinetop-Lakeside on July 25, 2011. She was walking her dog at a country club when attacked by a 250-pound bear. She died a month later from bleeding into her brain doctors believe resulted from the attack. Game and Fish hunters tracked down and killed that bear.
Other deaths attributed to black bears in nearby states include the death of Donna Munson, 74, in Ouray, Colo. on Aug. 6, 2009. She had been feeding bears for years despite warnings from wildlife officials to stop. After seeing a bear badly injured in a fight with a bigger, older bear, she began to leave out food to help the injured bear. However, the bigger bear forced his way through a fence and mauled Munson as she put out food. Hunters killed two bears on her property and found evidence after a necropsy that one of the bears had partially eaten Munson.
A black bear in Uinta National Forest in Utah on June 17, 2007 attacked Samuel Evan Ives, 11, in his tent. Hunters killed the bear. The bear had entered the campground the night before and the family subsequently sued the U.S. Forest Service for not warning campers about the bear in the area. A judge subsequently awarded the family $1.95 million.
Tips on avoiding bear attacks
• Always keep a clean camp; black bears have an excellent sense of
smell that can span miles. For bears, garbage = food!
• Use a designated camping area where other campers are around.
When not using food, store it in bear-resistant storage units (hard
shelled vehicle or car trunk) or hang 10 ft. from the ground and 4 ft.
from top and side supports.
• Store food away from your sleeping area. Where possible, food
storage and preparation areas should be at least 100 yards from your
• Use bear-resistant trash receptacles provided at developed
• Keep pets on a leash as they may attract bears.
• Carry E.P.A. registered bear pepper spray.
• Keep your sleeping area, tent, and sleeping bag free of food and
• Never feed a bear! Most conflicts between people and black bears are
the result of people approaching and feeding them or allowing them
to obtain garbage and pet/livestock food.
• If the bear approaches, remain! Do not run! Continue facing the bear,
and slowly back away. If the bear continues to approach, group
together and pick up children. Try to scare the bear away by shouting
and acting aggressively.