October 30, 2012

Odds slim of being attacked by a bear in the Oregon wild (there’s only been four instances) - but possible

Years ago, while sitting along the shoreline of the westernmost Twin Lake in the Bull of the Woods Wilderness, I was asked by three gun toting strangers if I was carrying. After answering “no,” I quickly realized it was a mistake. With side arms holstered like Audie Murphy, their next question, however, relieved me of all my concerns. “Well, what if you run into a bear?” one asked.

There are several reasons why I don’t carry a gun in Oregon’s wilds and none of them have to do with any aversion to guns. I just don’t.

Maybe it is a matter of playing the percentages. There are only four documented cases in Oregon where humans received injuries from a bear. Furthermore, there are no known deaths in Oregon as a result of black bear interactions (the only species of bear living in Oregon). So why carry the extra weight?

In one instance of bear attacks in Oregon, a black bear bit a man in Wallowa County in 1988 while he scrambled up a tree. The man’s dog is believed to have agitated the bear. In 2008, a Sandy woman was swatted in the leg by a bear when she went to check on a noise heard outside her home. That same year, a hunter was attacked by a bear he had wounded while hunting. The hunter was attacked, but he and his hunting partner were able to kill the bear. The hunter had injuries to his arm. The fourth attack was in 2009, near Coos Bay. Again, it was a hunting incident, in which a bear believed to be dead attacked a hunter. The hunter killed the bear and was treated for a bite to his leg.

I’ve run into a few bears in Oregon’s wilds, and none of them wanted to have anything to do with me.