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Do Bears Eat Humans? (The Truth About Bear Attacks)

No, bears typically don’t eat people. Bears are not ferocious creatures, and hence do not attack humans, unless forced to. This typically only happens if humans enter their territory.

Bears are omnivores, as they eat both plants and meat. Hence, it’s only natural to wonder if they eat humans.

While they are known for their big size, sharp claws, and teeth, and they’re excellent hunters, they tend to stay away from people.

In this article, we’ll dive deeper into how bears act around humans, whether they attack and eat people, or if they completely avoid us.

Do Bears Eat Humans?

No, bears usually don’t eat humans. While bears do eat meat, they tend to stay away from humans, like most other wild animals.

Humans are not part of a bear’s typical diet. But they do sometimes attack us, which causes an increasing number of people to seek out bear safety advice.

Bears can be very dangerous, especially if you surprise them or get too close to their cubs. Usually, bears want nothing to do with humans, but some are more aggressive than others, and there are even certain species that have been known to eat human flesh on occasion.


How Often Do Bears Eat Humans?

There are about 600,000 black bears in North America and around 55,000 grizzlies. Out of these numbers, only two or three people a year die from bear attacks. 

There have been approximately 180 deaths from bear attacks in North America since the late 1700s.[1]

This means that the risk of being killed by a bear is about one in a million. 

Attacks on people are more common in certain areas.

Related: What do bears eat?

Do Bears Attack Humans?

Yes, sometimes bears do attack humans. Bears tend to stay away from humans, like all other wild animals, but they will attack at times if provoked, threatened, or to protect their cubs.

There are various accounts of different types of bears attacking humans. There is a lot of conflicting information on the internet, and it’s important to do your research before deciding if you should go camping or hiking in bear country. 

Some people believe that black bears do not attack unless they feel threatened, while others claim otherwise. 

Grizzly bears are considered the most aggressive and dangerous of all bear species and have been known to attack without provocation.

angry bears

Why Do Bears Attack Humans?

Bears attack humans for a number of reasons, but they usually won’t as long as they’re left alone.

Reasons why bears may attack people are:

  1. Cub protection
  2. Starvation
  3. Self-defense

One reason is if they’re protecting their cubs, which can occur when a human disturbs or gets too close to the bear’s offspring.

Another reason bears attack humans are due to hunger and curiosity. They may investigate an unattended picnic basket that smells good. 

If you do spot a bear in its natural habitat, and it hasn’t spotted you yet, leave quietly and slowly so as not to draw attention towards yourself. Don’t run. Whether out of fear or curiosity, bears will chase after running prey.

Bears Are Very Protective of Their Cubs

Bears are typically shy animals that try to avoid contact with humans. However, if they feel their cubs are in danger, they will become very aggressive and may attack. 

brown bear and cubs

A Starving Bear Is Dangerous

Bears are not naturally inclined to eat human flesh, but they may do so if there is no other food available.

Bears typically don’t eat humans, as we’re not part of their natural diet[1]. Bears are opportunistic feeders and will take advantage of the easiest food source available to them. 

This means that they’ll mostly prey on animals that are smaller than themselves, as well as insects, fruits, vegetables, and other plants.

Grizzly Bear eating plants


Bears will, as many other predators, attack when they’re attacked. They’ll stand their ground, defending themselves.

However, you should act according to the bear. When encountering a black bear, stand your ground. For brown bears or grizzlies, back away slowly.

Brown bear

Are Bears Aggressive?

No, bears are typically not aggressive, unless they’re forced to be[2]. Bears are not ferocious animals.

Bears have a natural fear of humans and will typically do their best to steer clear, but if they feel threatened or their cubs are in danger, they may attack.

Most cases of bear attacks on humans occur when the victim has surprised the animal or gotten too close.

Though it is rare, bears can be known to eat human flesh if they come across it while scavenging for food. However, this is not generally part of their diet and most cases of bears attacking humans are due to defense or protection of their young.

Are Bears Friendly or Dangerous?

Bears can be dangerous, as they’re very powerful animals. Generally, they don’t attack people though.

Bears typically tend to stay away from humans, due to their natural fear but may attack if provoked, threatened, or if their cubs are threatened. 

However, it has shown that around two-thirds of all black bear attacks on people are defensive in nature. This means that the bear was feeling threatened and acted in self-defense. 

Overall, bears are generally gentle, not friendly, animals but can become dangerous if they feel threatened. Make sure to always give bears plenty of space and never try to do anything to provoke them.

Related: Are bears friendly?

lost bear on the road

How to Survive a Bear Attack

If you want to survive a bear attack, you should act according to the species. The best way to survive is also to avoid a bear attack in the first place.

The best way to survive a bear attack is to avoid it in the first place:

  • Travel in groups.
  • Be alert of signs of bears.
  • Carry bear spray.
  • Don’t attract them.

If you run into a bear, remain calm, don’t make any sudden movements, and act accordingly to the species. 

For grizzly bears, back away slowly. Don’t aggravate it or escalate the situation. Leave without provoking it. Don’t run, as you can’t outrun a bear.

Related: How fast can a bear run?

For black bears, standing your ground is your best bet. Stand tall, and seem as intimidating as possible.

If you are attacked, protect your head and neck. Try to keep yourself as covered as possible, and use whatever objects are available to shield yourself.

While some people believe so, dogs do not prevent bear attacks. While some bears are afraid of dogs, dogs tend to escalate bear encounters.

Most Dangerous Bear Species

Do Grizzly Bears Eat Humans?

Grizzly bears typically don’t eat humans.

They do have the capability to eat human beings, but this tends to only happen in very rare circumstances where the bear feels threatened or its cubs are endangered. 

For the most part, you don’t need to worry about being eaten by a grizzly bear.

Lone Bear

Do Polar Bears Eat Humans?

Polar Bears don’t typically eat humans. They do tend to be attracted to the smell of food. If you’re camping or working, in a remote area with no one around for miles, there is always a chance that a polar bear may get curious about your presence and come looking.

polar bear eating

Do Black Bears Eat Humans?

Black Bears do not typically eat humans but do have the capability to do so. Black Bears are omnivores and will feed on both vegetation and other animals in order to survive.

When a black bear attacks or kills a human, it’s usually because their cubs were threatened by the person.

black bear walking on the road

Do Humans Eat Bears?

Some cultures do hunt for bear meat and consume it regularly, but game meat is typically lower in fat and calories, which can result in a poor taste. Some hunters say that bears taste good unless the bear has been feeding on fish.

Related: Do people eat bears?


Bears typically do not attack and eat humans. Bear attacks are very rare. There are occasional cases where bears have attacked humans out of desperation or if provoked. 

Bears usually try to stay away from humans due to their innate fear, but they may become aggressive if their cubs are threatened. 

It is important for people who live or in or travel through bear territory to be aware of these dangers and take necessary precautions to avoid an attack.

About Dennis Stapleton

Dennis Stapleton has a passion for animals, especially dogs, and their relatives. He’s intrigued by their social structure and loves to write and teach about the world's most popular pet animal.

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