Do Bears Eat Humans? Truths and Myths About Bear Assaults

Have you ever wondered: “Do bears eat humans?” They are certainly large enough to do so, and every species (other than the panda) consumes meat.

Well, while bears do attack humans, they do so because they are startled or to protect their young and their territory.

But, in cases of extreme starvation, they may resort to eating humans.

Let’s delve into detail!

Do Bears Eat People?

Due to their size and strength, bears are often seen as blood-thirsty, ferocious animals that prey on humans. However, appearances to the contrary, bears do not show an affinity toward human flesh, similar to other wild animals.

Moreover, when approached by humans, they are rather wary and will avoid rather than confront them unless their young are under threat.

Bears are omnivores that typically eat honey, plants, berries, grain, insects, fish, birds, and larger animals such as deer or moose. Polar and panda bears are the only exceptions, as they primarily consume animals and plants, correspondingly.

That said, some aggressive species, like the grizzlies, may occasionally consume human flesh if they are deprived of food for a long time, but it’s far from the norm.

Also, you should never consider a bear cub for a pet just because they look adorable. Even though you’re not their preferred meal of the day, they still can and will attack you, especially when they’re caught by surprise.

How Often Do Bears Attack People?

Well, around 40 bear-related incidents are registered yearly. However, most attacks aren’t fatal, and the odds of getting ambushed by a bear are very low.

Still, it’s better to be safe than sorry, so do some research before hiking or camping in bear-populated areas. That way, you’ll learn whether or not you can find bears there, what kind, and how aggressive they are.

For instance, black bears only attack when feeling threatened. On the other hand, grizzlies are very dangerous and may not even run away from you. Also, every bear will defend its area and offspring to a certain degree.

To make things clear, bears don’t usually go after people unprovoked. To avoid uncomfortable situations, stay as far away as possible and remember that every bear species requires a different approach.

Bears Most Likely to Eat a Human

Some bear species are more dangerous to humans than others, and knowing that, you’ll know which areas to avoid when going camping:

1. Do Grizzly Bears Eat People?

As mentioned previously, grizzlies have earned a reputation for being among the world’s scariest predators due to their extreme aggression and willingness to protect their territory, their young, and their food source.

Although they can eat people, it doesn’t happen that often. Nevertheless, if you encounter a brown bear, back away slowly while facing it since they are the second strongest bear species in the world and may attack viciously.

2. Do Polar Bears Eat Humans?

In winter, polar bears use their impressive size, sharp claws, and excessive bite force to prey on and eat seals and other marine mammals while waiting for them to surface. However, they may also eat terrestrial mammals and plants during summer or when starved.

As for the chances of a polar bear attacking humans for feeding purposes, they increase in summer when these bears are typically malnourished and have to rely on their fat reserves to survive.

3. Do Black Bears Eat People?

Unlike the previous two bear species, North American black bears are smaller and less aggressive than their scarier cousins. Moreover, their diet includes a wide variety of meat and plants, so they are less likely to starve out.

Therefore, black bears usually avoid people; even if they attack, the outcome is rarely a serious injury. But, weirdly enough, many recent black bear attacks are somehow triggered by dogs that enter into a scuffle with a bear.

How to Avoid or Survive a Bear Attack?

To avoid the horrific scenario wherein you are chased or even mauled by a 300-pound bear, follow these common-sense strategies:

  • Travel with a large group—while most bear species are naturally wary of humans, they are even scared by a larger group of them;
  • Be alert to signs of bears—they are large animals that leave signs behind, including distinct tracks, broken foliage, and animal carcasses;
  • Carry bear spray—this specific aerosol spray contains highly irritant ingredients that can successfully deter aggressive bears;
  • Try not to attract them—noise and strong smells (including bad smells) attract curious and hungry bears.

If you follow these tips to the letter but still find yourself at the wrong end of a bear charge, you can still get out of it by:

  • Holding your position—never run or turn your back; just hold your ground and slowly back away regardless of how much the bear huffs and paws;
  • Playing dead—the U.S. Park Service recommends lying inert when attacked by certain species; for instance, grizzlies may back off once they see you are not a threat; 
  • Fighting back—black bears don’t fall for this trick, so you have to hide where it can’t get to you or fight back and aim at its eyes and nose with bear spray, kicks, punches, rocks, sticks, or anything else you can use.
Did you know: Running is a bad strategy against bears since grizzlies can run at a pace of 35 mph, whereas black bears top at 30 mph.

Key Takeaways

In general, bears do not seek out and hunt humans to feed on them. However, they may still do so if and when they are starved. That said, some species display more aggressive and predatory behavior than others.


Has a bear ever eaten a human?

Yes, it has, and the number of recorded fatal bear attacks in North America has been increasing steadily from the second half of the 20th century until today, with 19 fatalities in the 1970s and 30 deaths in the 2010s.

What do bears eat first on a human?

After killing their human prey, bears usually go for the chest or hip regions first, after which they focus on the entrails.

Do bears eat humans or just kill them?

Bears generally attack and kill out of fear or to protect themselves, but they will also feed on their prey if starvation leads them to kill.

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