Dogs may trigger black bear attacks, says Calgary researcher

A Calgary bear expert says some dogs can cause — not stop — bear attacks on their owners.

University of Calgary expert challenges belief dogs protect their owners

A researcher at the University of Calgary suggests it is best to keep dogs on leash and under control when in the backcountry. (Jeff Mcintosh/The Canadian Press)

A Calgary bear expert says some dogs can cause — not stop — bear attacks on their owners.

Steven Herrero, a world-recognized bear expert, and another researcher looked at 92 bear attacks in North America over the past five years. Only one of the attacks happened in Alberta. 

But now he is challenging the idea that dogs help protect their owners.

Because media accounts of events can be incomplete, he said it is difficult to accurately identify how many dogs were on leash versus off leash at the time of the attacks.

But the data does suggest that in the majority of cases, it seemed as though the dog or dogs had been running loose at the time of the attack and drew the bear to their owners, he said. 

Part of the explanation might be that bears and dogs — and their wolf ancestors — are age-old enemies, he said.

“They are long-evolved competitors."

It also appears that many of the bears weren't focused on the dogs, but came right after the owner, according to Herrero.

He said there's a fairly simple lesson to be learned from the research. 

“If you’re out there in bear country, probably you should keep your dog under control,” he said. 

Herrero's research has been published in the International Bear News. The article is posted below. On mobile? Click here.


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?