BILLINGS, Mont. — Dramatic video captured by a Montana wildlife official shows a mother black bear with cubs running toward a knot of camera-clicking tourists as the animals try to cross a bridge in Yellowstone National Park.
No one is hurt, but at one point the adult bear rushes full-tilt toward a group of people standing at one end of the bridge. Yelling is heard as people scramble to get to their vehicles.
Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks spokesman Bob Gibson witnessed the encounter and said some visitors ignored or were slow to heed a park official’s commands to leave the bridge. As the cubs scattered, the mother bear raced to round them up, frightening tourists.
“The bear was definitely not charging at people,” he said. “The bear was trying to get across the bridge, and people were in the way.”
How should the tourists have reacted?
Each year, Yellowstone sees about 1,000 so-called bear jams, in which grizzly or black bear sightings prompt dozens and sometimes hundreds of tourists to pull over their vehicles hoping for a photo.
Ideally, the visitors on the bridge would have stayed in their vehicles, said Kerry Gunther, the park’s bear management program leader.
Once the bears started approaching, the tourists worsened the situation by running and screaming, Gunther said. They instead should have grouped together on one side of the bridge and allowed the bears to pass.
Yellowstone has never had a bear-caused injury among groups of three or more people, he said.
How dangerous are black bears?
The grizzly is generally more feared because of its larger size and reputation for aggressive behavior.
Researchers, however, have recorded at least 63 people killed by black bears since 1900 in the U.S. and Canada.
Of those fatal attacks in which black bears exhibited predatory behavior, 92 percent involved male bears.
What are the chances of injury?
Hundreds of bears of both species live in and near Yellowstone, making for a high potential for dangerous run-ins.
Over a three-decade period ending in 2011, black and grizzly bears injured 43 people, park officials said.
When stacked against total visitation numbers, more than 3.5 million passed through Yellowstone last year, that works out to a 1 in 2.1 million chance of a visitor getting hurt by a bear, according to the park.
More often people are injured by the park’s buffalo.