California Department of Fish and Wildlife

CDFW News

CDFW Office of Communications, Education and Outreach
1807 13th Street, Suite 104
Sacramento, CA 95811
(916) 322-8911

California Black Bear Public Safety Incidents

CDFW has recorded 12 “bear attacks” since 1980. In some cases, the details of these attacks were not completely known. According to the CDFW’s statewide public safety guidelines, a wild animal attack is defined as “physical contact, injury or death.” Each attack is summarized below.

  • Mono County, October 2003 – A 43-year old Orange County man was struck across the face and chest by a bear at a private recreation facility in Mono Village. According to witnesses, a sow bear, with two cubs behind her, approached the victim as he stood motionless and completely quiet next to the short stairway to his cabin. For unknown reasons the sow lunged at the victim, striking him at least once. The man sustained cuts on his eyes, cheek, and inside his mouth. The sow was later shot and killed, and the yearling cubs were allowed to disperse.
  • Los Angeles County, July 2003 – A male hiker was knocked down by a bear at a remote campsite along the Pacific Crest Trail in the Angeles National Forest. The hiker had just reached the camp, which was empty, dropped his pack on a picnic table, and was looking for a place to hang his food. As he walked back toward the pack, he heard a noise behind him. As he turned he was knocked to the ground by a bear. After standing over him for a few seconds, the bear grabbed the backpack and began dragging it off. The man shouted at the bear and threw rocks until the bear finally retreated without the backpack. The hiker received only minor bruises and was not seriously hurt.
  • Los Angeles County, July 2001 – A woman was bitten on the arm by a bear at a county-run tree farm near La Verne. The bear, which was earlier spotted climbing on a nearby trash can, reportedly walked up to the woman while she was seated at a picnic table and bit her on the arm. The woman was treated at a hospital for puncture wounds. The bear was later shot and killed by Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies. The bear weighed approximately 85 pounds and was estimated at one to two years of age.
  • Kern County, August 1998 – A man and woman were attacked by a sow bear with two cubs while they were sleeping outside in the Piute Mountains. They reported being awakened at 5:30 a.m. by a noise, then saw the bears within a few feet of them. When the man sat up to see what the bears were doing, the sow attacked. The man sustained extensive damage to both his forearms, as well as deep cuts to his back and more superficial wounds to his legs. The woman sustained a cut underneath her eyelid and superficial wounds on her legs. Both were treated at a hospital. The sow was later shot and killed, and the yearling cubs were released nearby.
  • Mono County, April 1996 – A man received a bite on the buttocks from a young bear. Further details are not known.
  • Shasta County, April 1995 – A 13-year-old boy was injured and received eight stitches on his head after being bitten or pawed by a bear in his tent. The boys indicated that they did not have any food in the tent. The bear had also gone through their backpacks (located 25 feet away) and eaten some canned goods and toothpaste. According to the three boys in the tent, they had hung the food from a tree the night before. Attempts to locate the bear were unsuccessful.
  • San Bernardino County, August 1993 – Two separate incidents occurred within three days of each other. In both cases, the bear — or bears — grabbed a child by the head and attempted to drag him away. In each incident, both victims were 13-year-old males and were sleeping on the ground in sleeping bags at the time of the attack. The bear also inflicted minor injuries on three other campers immediately prior to the attacks. The attacks occurred at two group campgrounds approximately two miles from each other and the attacks ended when other campers aggressively came to the victims’ aid. More than 100 people were sleeping on the ground in the immediate area at the time of the each attack. Both campgrounds were either clean or moderately clean. However, the area is interspersed with cabins and garbage is available nearby. Natural foods were available and abundant at the time of the attacks.

    Within two hours of the second incident, two bears were tracked with dogs and killed. Both bears were young, healthy males weighing about 200 pounds each. The necropsy performed later indicated that both bears were disease free. Residents in the area felt that the same two bears were observed with a sow the previous summer and that these animals had been feeding on garbage and handouts.
  • Shasta County, May 1993 – A man was injured by a bear while sleeping in a campground near Shasta Lake. He was sleeping on the ground when he stated that he woke up to a bear drooling on him. When he sat up, the bear swatted him on the head and ran. The victim was given three stitches. Garbage was plentiful at his camping location. The victim left the hospital before DFG employees could investigate the incident. There is no further information available.
  • Siskiyou County, August 1991 – While archery hunting for deer in the Marble Mountain Wilderness, a black bear attacked and mauled an adult male. After the victim observed the bear, he began photographing her until he noticed that she had cubs. The bear charged him and he attempted to escape. She caught him and bit him repeatedly around the shoulders.
  • Trinity County, May 1986 – A 35-year old man was attacked at around 3 a.m. while camping in a tent in the Trinity Alps Wilderness. The victim felt that he was caught in the middle of a fight between two boars when one bear attacked him in his tent. The bear left when the victim hit the bear with a tentpole. Two bears then returned and acted aggressively toward each another before they finally left. The victim sustained several puncture wounds to his shoulder and lacerations to the back of his head.
  • Siskiyou County, September 1986 – A long-time resident of a small rural community was injured while feeding a bear at his residence. The victim had been feeding bears at this location for more than 30 years.