black bear attack
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You might not think you’d need a carry a bear gun if you’re stargazing on a ski lodge’s deck in the middle of summer, but the big ursas, particularly black bears, are very active in that area (read this harrowing account of another northern New Mexico black bear attack).

From the AP:

A woman was seriously injured when she was chased and attacked by a bear which approached her and her husband as they were comet-watching on the deck of a northern New Mexico ski area’s lodge, authorities said Saturday.

The bear Friday night came within a foot of the couple and then began chasing the woman before attacking her in the parking lot of the ski area on the outskirts of Los Alamos, the state Game and Fish Department said in a statement.

The woman was hospitalized for treatment of multiple injuries, including several broken bones, a collapsed lung, bite marks and scratches, the department said.

Los Alamos police officers who responded to a 911 call from the woman’s husband shot and killed a bear eating trash in the vicinity, the department said.

A forensic laboratory will analyze DNA samples to determine whether the bear killed by police was the one involved in the attack, the department said.

Department spokesman Tristanna Bickford said bear encounters aren’t uncommon in Los Alamos and that bears sometimes use drainages to enter the city from Valles Caldera National Preserve and other areas in search of food.

The New Mexico Department of Game and Fish has a few suggestions for those who will be in the outdoors.

Every once in a while, people have face-to-face encounters with black bears. Do not panic. Chances are the bear is just as wary of you as you are of it. If you do encounter a bear, follow these rules to be safe.

  • Do not run! – If you see a bear, stay calm.
  • Stand upright – Slowly wave your arms.
  • Back away – Slowly back away from the bear.
  • Look for cubs – Do not come between a mother and her cubs.
  • Fight back – If attacked, fight back aggressively.

To that, we’d add…carry a gun.

96 COMMENTS

      • It all depends upon how acclimated to humans a bear has become. When a bear first wanders in and among human habitation it is possible to give them a rough enough time they will not return. Loud noises, air horns, rubber bullets and bean bags from shot guns, that sort of thing. Possibly the Taser could be added to that mix. Finally, shoot the bear with a tranquilizer, tag it it and take it to a distant wilderness. Often, it doesn’t work and the bear returns after having been hauled off and dumped in the wilderness.

        The first time a bear returns it must be killed. Anything less is risking human life.

        • They killed the bear for not wearing a mask ! They said they claimed the bear that they shot was eating trash, hell of a thing to say about the victim.

        • poor bears
          i heard in the 50s 60s people were more friendly to wild animals
          only those days people brainwashed afraid of everything
          it looks like american only care about themselves
          especially in light of this rona pandemic
          lives seem not mean much

          chase them around kick thier butts
          highly doubt they would initiate attack on human like for food especially
          they return to garbage can

          start wars everywhere
          mark your place no lives beyond themselves
          millions of lives killed being killed for corporate greed

          pathetic

    • That’s Al Gore. He couldn’t find a white polar bear suit.

      He’s trying to sell carbon time shares in colorado or something.

      • Her husband was not injured. Proving that old saying about you don’t have to outrun the bear. Just the person you’re with.

        • I’m sure someone will tell me I shouldn’t have but…..

          I chuckled at that one jwm.

        • Yeah, the two big game hunters out for elk and one asks why his buddy has a pistol on his hip. “In case we see a bear”.
          “You are gonna shoot a bear with that little ol’ pistol??”
          “No I am gonna shoot you in the foot and then run like hell”

        • My favorite was a tv commercial for some brand of sneakers. 2 dudes walking the plains of Africa confronted by a lion. Dude 1 pulls the advertised shoes from his bag and puts them on. Dude 2 asks him does he think he can outrun a lion.

          The commercial ends with running shoe dude outrunning his buddy and the lion closing in on the slower guy.

        • While we never saw the bear, I did get to pull that gag once in real life. I was living in a mountain community and visitors from the city were staying in a lodge. A bear had tossed over a large dumpster which required a front end loader to set right side up. People were curious about the bear, how large it may have been and wanted to follow its tracks. I said that sounded like a seriously dumb idea.

          Well, they were going to follow the tracks anyway and I was asked to get my gun and follow along in case of a bear attack. I fetched a Ruger Blackhawk in .45 Colt, 7.5″ barrel, and an old Hopkins & Allen top break revolver in .22 Short, nickel plated.

          The group follows the tracks downslope until we come to a tree with the bark ripped off it. Bear trying to get at grubs I suppose. The tree has been raked with the bear’s claws, very deeply, high up the trunk, very impressive. Somebody mentions how they sure are happy I brought the big pistol along.

          Which is when I mention all I have in the big gun is some light target loads, no way it would stop a large bear. This is true, gun was loaded with cheap stuff for targets, soft cast lead for that matter.

          Which is when somebody pointed out the tiny nickel plated .22 in my belt, asked me what the little gun was for.

          That’s when I explained about how I don’t need to shoot the bear with a big gun, I just need to pop one or two of you idiots in the knee. While you are screaming in pain and have the bear’s attention, I can just walk on back home nice and easy, report the tragedy and wait for the sheriff.

          At which point several of the visitors took off back up the hill at a somewhat improved rate of travel.

          I nearly got in trouble over that one. But I showed the boss the bear’s tracks to make it all clear.

          The group wanting to go see the bear had followed it backwards. The bear had crossed the property and gone down another way. We’d followed the inbound track back where it came from, not where it went. I thought it best not to inform them of their error.

          Silly ignorant city folks.

        • I foresee a D-I-V-O-R-C-E in their future.

          I can hear him now: ” but honey I was shoving you AWAY from the bear!”

      • I have more often heard the bullets should be heavier and flat nose hard cast, for big bears anyway. They are more likely to penetrate to the CNS. From anecdotes it does sound like people frequently get psychological stops with less appropriate guns and ammo though.

        • Definitely hard cast over anything else, and I would expect even FMJ over JHP. The guy in the linked article had switched over to JHP from his usual hard cast, and almost died as a result, even after the full magazine (15+1) of his 10 mm G20.

    • My theory is that with your 44 magnum, I won’t get a second shot accurately into the bear. Which is why I carry a 10 mm G20 with 15+1 rounds of sold cast instead.

      • Glock 20 10 mm with hardcast Bullets for blacks…44 mag with 300 grain hard cast for griz. and practice practice practice

      • I use a .357 with 200gr HCFN bullet, it has an SD of .224 (the same as a 290gr .44(.429)). A 10mm would have to be 250gr to get the same SD and, at the same velocity, the recoil is likely greater, possibly slowing a second shot. Not at all saying .357 revolver is better for this task (because I don’t know that it is) just explaining my calculations. So I suspect my thinking is similar to yours just taken a but further caliber wise.

        • Vic Nighthorse,

          You are on the right track with your bullet selection.

          The only thing you are giving up compared to 10mm Auto or (even better) .44 Magnum is bullet diameter. I love the saying, “There is no replacement for displacement.”

          You will definitely get the penetration that you need to successfully stop an animal attacker. Because your bullets have a smaller cross-section compared to 10mm Auto and .44 Magnum, you have a slightly lower probability of stopping the animal just as quickly or with the same number of shots.

          Before I acquired a .44 Magnum revolver for woods defense, I carried a .357 Magnum revolver with 180 or 200 grain (I cannot remember which) hard cast lead bullets.

        • Recoil on the semi-auto is likely softer than for that sweet German revolver you use.

          And that can impact follow-up shot capability. To say nothing for the fact the magazine on the semi has double the rounds. And who looks forward to a revolver reload during a bear attack?

          (Besides the bear? 😉 )

        • I expect to get 0-3 (leaning toward the 0) shots before I am getting the crap thrashed out of me. Reloading is not something that I am imagining having the chance to do. I think that there are only two types of stops that can happen fast enough to save you – psychological and CNS hit. I think it is highly unlikely I’d land a CNS hit at a charging bear so most of my calculating is probably just an academic exercise and that is why I don’t go about saying I think my choice is significantly if any better than most peoples.

        • Jeff Cooper, of the 1911 fame, thought that the best all around handgun for defending against an animal attack such as black bears was a .357 magnum revolver. He was a die hard 1911 fan except for this specific scenario. He reasoned that in a large majority of these attacks you wind up on the ground under the animal.
          Any semi auto is too prone to jamming in such a scenario. A powerful revolver was his answer.

      • Your choice.

        The BB 10mm load is a 220 at around 1250 fps.

        That is well below low-recoil 44 loads of a 250 grainer at the same speed or slight faster.

        These loads are pretty mild in a 44 revolver (except scandium).

        I see the big reason to carry a 10mm is a a Glock. It’s much lighter than a proper revolver.

        But it’s not nearly a powerful, so you might need those 15 rounds.

        • The moment you realize you need to fire whatever it is you are carrying because a bear attack you are already being bitten and shaken like a rag doll and your firearm flew off in some direction you do not even know and seems like hours ago…

      • Bruce,

        I share your concern that I would not be able to deliver fast follow-up shots with my .44 Magnum revolver during an animal attack. To mitigate that problem, I carry a HEAVY revolver with a ported barrel.

        There is another dimension to this. If a bear or cougar attacks you, there is a very high probability that you will end up on the ground wrestling with the animal. In that scenario you would most likely press your handgun barrel into the animal for various reasons when attempting to shoot it. When that happens, there is an extremely high probability that the animal will push your slide out of battery and prevent it from firing. Or, you manage to shoot once and the animal’s fur interferes with slide operation and your semi-auto handgun jams.

        Don’t get me wrong — I am not claiming that a semi-auto handgun (chambered in 10mm Auto) is a bad choice for woods defense. All I am saying is that there are pros and cons to both semi-autos and revolvers. If you have enough time for rapid fire before the animal is on top of you, I have to think that 10mm Auto (loaded with 220 grain hard cast lead bullets) is the optimum woods defense handgun platform. If you do not have enough time for rapid fire before the animal is on top of you, then I think a .44 Magnum revolver is the optimum woods defense handgun platform.

        As far as I can determine, it sounds like your odds are pretty much 50/50 whether or not you would have enough time for rapid fire when an animal suddenly attacks in the woods.

      • Yeah but .44 has a hell of a lot more punch then 10mm. Everytime.

        I get age/physical ability can factor here, but .44 mag recoil is a bit exaggerated by folks. I can fairly rapidly shoot my .44 mag, enough to where I’m confident I could get 3-4 rounds off in a defensive situation. Granted, I practice with mine fairly regularly and have no degenerative ailments.

    • Jimmy Beam,

      That is my standard “woods defense” load that I carry in my .44 Magnum revolver (with six-inch barrel) when I am camping, hiking, hunting, fishing, and/or stargazing. I figure that load (assuming semi-jacketed softpoint bullets) should be pretty effective at promptly stopping black bears, large white-tail buck deer, cougars, “reasonable” sized feral hogs, etc. Muzzle velocities are on the order of 1,300 fps and I figure that velocity/weight combination should allow for significant penetration and incapacitation.

      Having said that, I have heard from multiple sources who swear by loads with hard cast lead bullets which have large, flat meplats. Those bullets are supposed to provide even greater penetration. And, they are supposed to make a permanent wound channel that is about twice the bullet diameter. (In the case of .44 Magnum where the bullets are 0.429 inches diameter, they should make permanent wound channels that are approximately 0.86 inches in diameter.)

      That last effect — making a permanent wound channel that is about twice the bullet diameter — is devastating to any creature. I think of large-bore revolvers shooting those hard cast lead bullets with large flat meplats as “coring tools” which will remove a cylindrical core of material about 0.8 to 0.9 inches in diameter from an attacking animal at close range.

      As a result, from this point forward, I am probably going to switch over to carrying 305 grain hard cast lead bullets (with large flat meplats) in my .44 Magnum revolver as my woods defense load.

      • I know of a charging 350 lb black bear taking 4 7mm mag round and 6 44 magnum rounds before droping. The first 7mm mag round got his attention the others came after he charged, He was about 70 yards away when shot and closer to ten when she dropped, took a 3″ tree out with one swipe on the way towards them. Watch out for bears and avoid them, they are bad ass and dangerous. My friend decided against bear hunting after that. It was in New Mexico.

        • c,

          That bear which required that many shots to stop had to be one in a billion. Either that or almost all the shots imparted superficial wounds. (Note that poor shot placement combined with improper bullet selection would easily cause superficial wounds.)

        • “He was about 70 yards away when shot and closer to ten when she dropped,”

          No wonder it took so many shots if they wasted some on sex reassignment surgery.

  1. “Los Alamos police officers who responded to a 911 call from the woman’s husband shot and killed a bear eating trash in the vicinity, the department said.

    A forensic laboratory will analyze DNA samples to determine whether the bear killed by police was the one involved in the attack, the department said.”

    so once again it was all over and done when the cops showed up. Maybe these defund the police people are on to something. Get rid of the cops. Get rid of the gun laws. The good people of the wold will sort it out.

  2. A Fed Bear Is A Dead Bear. People feeding bears or not properly securing trash cause bears to lose their natural fear of humans. Which in turn makes humans first nothing to worry about, and second, something to eat. If you feed a bear, you are killing that bear.

    Any bear that shows no fear of humans should be immediately killed.

    Twenty five or so years ago … In my experience, the sheriff deputy and USFS LEO got there first, so my shotgun remained in my vehicle. I heard the shots of them killing the bear as the dispatcher advised me over the radio to divert to the USFS helipad and pick up the paramedics, who’s helicopter was inbound. I popped an orange smoke canister and dropped it into the pipe next to the helipad, they landed, got in with me and off we went.

    All I can say is I’ve seen dead bodies that looked better. A still alive, partially eaten young person is not a sight you forget.

    I’d say if they aren’t certain the killed the right bear on this incident, they should keep hunting and shooting other bears in the vicinity.

    Best to be sure.

        • “I root for the team Humans.”

          There was a time when I would have been with you on that. Not so much these days. Given the current definition we are forced to classify some pretty disgusting individuals as “human”.

      • Having seen with my own eyes what a bear can do to a young woman, I will always support killing any bear that shows aggression toward people or acclimation to human surroundings.

  3. The article linked to made the point that you need to be carrying solid cast, and not self defense ammunition. The guy involved had switched out the ammo in his G20, assuming that bear interactions would be rare at that time of year. Nope, and he should have known better.

  4. OK, stupid question time. I know very little about bears. I know that black bear scat contains squirrel fur and smells like berries, and brown bear scat smells like pepper spray and contains hiking boots. But that’s about all I know.

    I followed the links through to other articles on bear attacks and bears shot in self defense. I read the comments on them too. There was a lot of the usual debates; 10mm verses .44 mag, Glock verses 1911 verses revolver. Someone commenting on one of the articles said something like “A pistol is a poor choice for bears anyway.” that made me think of AR and AK pistols.

    So would an AR or AK pistol be a better bear defense gun than any standard handgun for outdoor activities in bear country? Is there some reason we never hear of anyone carrying one instead of a standard handgun?

    • No such thing as Stupid questions. When asking for legitimate information. I suggest 12 gauge loaded with 3inch #4 shot. There are unfortunately (For Victims). Stupid people in Bear country. Unfortunate for the bear also. Who is killed for being “A Bear”.

        • Worked well enough the only time I had to shoot a bear. Blew most of her face off. Second shot finished the job. Blind bears are dead bears

      • I live at 8,200′ and on fairly steep land. A shotgun or rifle gets very heavy quickly unless you are both well acclimated and in very good physical condition. I am only one of those. At home I have a short shotgun ready but I don’t carry it hiking. 6.3 lbs of loaded shotgun is much more of a burden than 2.6lb of loaded revolver in that terrain and especially so when you are working – clearing dead trees, fixing fence, whatever.

        • @ VIC NIGHTHORSE: When working your property, are you carrying your firearm in a chest rig? I had a June trip to Yellowstone and Grand Teton canceled, but in preparation I did quite a bit of research. Along with bear spray, I had narrowed the handgun choices to two: 41mag with Underwood 265gr hardcast, or 10mm with Underwood 220gr hardcast. But it seems practically everybody that knew anything advised using a chest rig. From what you have said, I infer you sort of live this sort of thing day-to-day, and I’m curious how you’re kitted for reliably quick access to your firearm.

        • Wow, 8,200′ is legit. Don’t know your latitude but I imagine the winters are rough. Sounds like my kind of place. I’m also pretty sure you aren’t too concerned about “mostly peaceful protesters” ruining your day. Well done.

        • I am not a long time mountain guy, I am new to it. I have a back problem and a chest rig hurts my back faster than any other type. Then again just about everything causes me back pain. I have two holsters that I use, both from Andrew’s Custom Leather one is a Monarch shoulder rig and and the other an easier on my back but slower to draw of the two is a vertical Spring Break shoulder holster that hangs it pretty low. Sometime one works better for what I am doing than the other. When neither works I don’t wear the gun but keep it close by.

        • @Vic Nighthorse: First, thanks for the response. I looked at Andrew’s website; that Monarch is a nice-looking holster.

          Second, you say, “…I don’t wear the gun but keep it close by.” That’s the part I’m unwilling to risk. In preparation for that trip I read several articles concerning a Wyoming guide killed in 2018. He had taken off his chest-rig holding a Glock 20, and two grizzles came out of nowhere. The firearm was not close enough. There is much more to the tale, but suffice it to say, the guide is dead, though his client did manage to escape…….after suffering some bites and scratches.

    • too big to carry , and an ak or ar only shoot a small bullet , u need some weight to put down a bear .44 is the perfect pistol to carry , now my pick is a 12 gauge double barrel stage coach shot gun , it shoots 500 grain bullet , ps,your ar shoots 67 grain . the shot gun , i can stick it in my backpack reach up to my ear and pull it out over my head , very quick

    • Crimson Pirate,

      There are two compelling reasons why an AR-15 or AK-47 “pistol” are bad choices for “woods defense”:

      1) An attack often happens at lightning speed without any indication and defenders often end-up on the ground wrestling against their animal attacker. Once in that configuration, it is effectively impossible to wield an AR or AK “pistol” in one hand and shoot into a vital area on the animal attacker. Instead, you need a handgun or revolver that you can effectively position and point with one hand toward a vital area of the animal. Along the same lines, you could easily be in brush or other confines which will prohibit you from moving a firearm with a relatively long overall length into position to shoot your animal attacker.

      2) The short barrels of AR-15 and AK-47 “pistols” reduce muzzle velocity significantly. And they shoot relatively light bullets (especially .223 Remington / 5.56 x 45mm NATO chamberings). The net result is relatively tiny and light bullets that are moving relatively slowly which fail to penetrate any significant depth into the dense muscle and bone of animal attackers. In other words those firearm platforms simply fail to cause enough tissue destruction to reliably stop an animal attacker in short order.

      • Crimson Pirate,

        Adding to my first reply, only large bore handguns with specific bullets will be effective at promptly incapacitating an attacking animal.

        I mentioned in my first comment (farther up in the comments) that a large bore handgun loaded with hard cast lead bullets which have large, flat meplats will create a huge permanent wound channel in an animal attacker, even a “tough” animal with dense muscle and bone. Multiple sources claim that the wound channel will be something like 36 inches deep and about twice the bullet diameter — in the neighborhood of 0.8 to 0.9 inches in diameter.

        That type of terminal ballistics will almost always incapacitate an animal attacker much faster than any AR-15 or AK-47 “pistol” platform. Add the fact that handguns are much more convenient to carry than an AR-15 or AK-47 “pistol” and it becomes a no-brainer about which way to go for “woods defense”.

        • Ever heard of hydrostatic shock? Rifle round over pistol round any day. Pistol rounds don’t travel fast enough to create enough of a shock wave. I do like the larger bullet concept so, ak or ar in .308. PSP.

    • Not a bad question.

      AR pistol? No. 5.56 of any load out of any barrel is a bad choice for something like a bear.

      AK Pistol? Interesting thought, as I’ve personally used 7.62×39 for animals and many objects, I say it is better at overall destruction of tissue. And 30 rounds of it on semi auto wouldn’t be a bad thing. Though, I’ll say all the things I’ve done shooting 7.62 has been out of 16” barrels.

      Personally I think if you are thinking of an AK pistol you might as well go with a full size AK and get the better ballistics. A bare bones folding stock full size AK is fairly light. And I remember an article here on TTAG a few years back about an Alaskan police force that carried AKs for the dual purpose of combat with people and a better rifle against big critters then the AR.

      The issue I see with it is where you are/going. If your in a blue state, walking around with an AK will likely get the law called on you.

  5. All the blackbears I’ve seen dead in the back of USFS and G&F pickup trucks were shot with 12ga, either 00 Buck or slugs.

    The one relative I know that took a bear in an anti-predation hunt for a local rancher used an old lever action in .44-40.

    So there’s that.

  6. Why don’t we name the bear Harambe?

    I can’t help feeling that if Harambe the Bear wanted that woman dead, she’d be dead. I also understand that if there had been a next time, Harambe the Bear might not be so generous.

    Sorry, Harambe. There will be no further chomping on women. Even if they do taste like chicken.

    • “There will be no further chomping on women. Even if they do taste like chicken.”

      Some say they taste like…

      Nevermind. 😉

  7. This article linked another article on this site about another bear attack in New Mexico one or two years ago. I reviewed that article which linked yet an additional past article on this site about bear attacks in the United States. I found an interesting quote in one of the accounts of a bear attack in Montana:

    At the Kalispell hospital, one of the staff specialized in treating bear-attack victims.

    Something really interesting struck me as I read that particular sentence. Everyone and their brother — especially tree-huggers — keep telling us that bear attacks basically never happen so we don’t have to be armed to defend ourselves out in the wilds. Okay. If bear attacks are so rare as to be insignificant, how can there be a hospital staff member who specializes in treating bear-attack victims?

    That quote was from the article at:
    https://www.thetruthaboutguns.com/father-uses-taurus-44-magnum-revolver-shoot-grizzly-bear-attacking-son/

  8. QUESTION: Why aren’t “X” frame S & W in .500 or .460 mentioned?

    My .500 with Short barrel in front across the chest rig is easy to practice with – and become proficient, no matter what clothing is involved seasonally.

    Conversely…any 10mm Glock or even my beloved DEAGLE when worn up UNDER a coat in the Winter….is not going to be as quick to deploy for they typical Joe or Jane in the woods, I fear.

    • Because if you’re going to carry something that big, heavy and unwieldy you might as well carry the shotgun loaded with buckshot or slugs.

    • “My .500 with Short barrel in front across the chest rig is easy to practice with”

      Short barreled .500 s&w is easy to practice with? Now I’ve met some tough guys before, but this is a first for me. I shot 5 rounds of that stuff out of 5″ non ported revolver with a glove on and I did not ask for more.

    • #blackbearlivesmatter. No body gives a fuck about brown bear lives and don’t even bring up white bear lives matter.

      Allbearlivesmatter will get you protested……

  9. Carry a good brand of pepper spray designed for repelling bears. It’s easier to deploy than a firearm and works well. The firearm is a backup to the spray if the bear is persistent.

    • Kendahl,

      There is very compelling evidence: bear spray does NOT stop a bear that is intent on attacking/eating you.

      And there is compelling evidence that bear spray is incredibly effective on curious bears who wander in your direction.

      Therefore, carry bear spray to stop curious bears and carry a large bore handgun to stop bears that are intent on attacking/eating you.

    • I would say that if you need a backup to the spray, you’re already eaten. What’s the range on the spray? Six feet? Twelve feet? The bear is already close enough that you can smell his breath, right? If the bear is intent on attacking, you’ve just wasted your final moments irritating him further.

  10. Was he looking for a pic a nic basket?!? Asking for a friend😏I see they had an errant black bear in ILLinoyed. Supposedly wandered down from Wisconsin. They did have a mountain lion shot to death in Chiraq several years…be prepared.

    • Thar bear was followed and harrassed for part of his Illinois route I saw on the news. Poor guy was just looking for some bear strange.

      Last I heard of the bear he made somewhere north of STL and was tranquilized by the Mo. DNR. His relocation was not told.

  11. You can run but you’ll die tired.

    Especially with two people, square up and try to intimidate the bear. Black bears generally aren’t protecting their cubs when this kind of thing happens.

    Oh, and don’t play dead. It doesn’t mind a warm meal.

    It’s downright stupid the way most ‘advice’ about bears consists entirely of bear spray to the exclusion of guns.

  12. We used to find bear tracks on the TSJC campus, and occasionally tracks in the mud down along the railroad tracks through town. The cheeky sods would come right down past the campus at night…

  13. At the risk of seeming indelicate, I would point out that the bear probably targeted the woman because of scent. If she was menstruating, the bear would have been attracted to and triggered by the scent of blood. If the woman and hubby had been enjoying their time at the lodge, the bear would have been attracted to and triggered by the scent of semen.

    Women should shower frequently when in bear country.

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