In a highly unusual and tragic incident, a 66-year-old man was killed by a black bear in Arizona last Friday. Steven Jackson, from Tucson, was constructing a cabin in a remote area of Groom Creek near Prescott when the bear attacked him while he was sitting in a chair outside his campsite. The bear dragged him about 75 yards and “was in the process of consuming him,” according to Yavapai County Sheriff David Rhodes.
Neighbours heard Steven’s screams and tried to scare off the bear by yelling and honking their horns, but to no avail. Eventually, one neighbour grabbed a rifle and shot the bear, killing it, but Steven was already dead.
The attack was “predatory in nature,” according to Darren Tucker, a field supervisor with the Arizona Game and Fish Department. The incident is extremely unusual, not the norm. Bear attacks often involve “some nexus to food,” Tucker said, but their investigation has found no obvious reason for the attack.
Arizona is home to only black bears, and attacks are uncommon. Wildlife officials have not had any reports of aggressive or threatening behavior from bears in that area and were not on the lookout for the offending bear.
The Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office advised residents not to shoot bears “unless there is an immediate threat,” as it is otherwise against the law. The bear, which appeared healthy and showed no obvious signs of being sick or diseased, was killed, and there is no threat to the public.
This attack marks the 15th reported bear attack in the state since the late 1980s, and the second fatal one. The last deadly bear attack occurred in 2011 in Pinetop, according to the Arizona Game and Fish Department.
Authorities have reminded campers and visitors to take precautions, such as locking up food in a vehicle and not leaving out items like toothpaste, which can attract bears to a campsite. While YCSO will be conducting further investigations into Steven’s death, Arizona Game and Fish will continue investigating the cause of the attack, which officials believe may have just been a predatory response by the bear.
As the saying goes, “bears will be bears,” and it’s important to remember that these animals are wild and unpredictable. Let’s all take extra precautions when camping or hiking in bear country, so we can avoid any more tragedies like this one.