Are Black Bears Like Dogs?


Dogs can be aggressive, territorial, and prone to attack.

Black bears are generally restrained, non-territorial toward people, and prone to retreat.

Many people imagine bears as oversize attack dogs rushing at intruders. Hunting magazines often portray bears like that, and it is the image many people have as they look into the darkness in bear country.

Fortunately, that image is nowhere close to reality. Black bears simply do not act like attack dogs.

When people see bears in their yards, the bears run away, climb trees, or watch complacently. A few might even pounce and blow nervously—behavior comparable to a dog barking or a deer stomping and snorting—but Ely researchers have never seen or heard of a black bear rushing and attacking like some dogs do.

Some people worry that black bears might resent people who invade their space by hiking or building homes in the woods. Not to worry. Black bears are not territorial toward people like dogs sometimes are toward intruders. Black bears can be territorial toward each other, but people are not part of their social system.

Bears do not have the range of expressive behaviors that dogs have. Bears do not snarl and do not raise their hackles. Some bears look like their hackles are raised near the end of shedding in late summer, but this is only because the last long hairs to shed are on the back of the neck and shoulders. Some bears also look like their hackles are raised in fall when the under fur grows in and makes the long guard hairs stand straight up.

For each person killed by a black bear across North America in the last century, about 45 people have been killed by dogs.



Basic Bear Facts (article list)

Help support the North American Bear Center

We are a 501(c)(3) non-profit that relies entirely on the support of visitors, merchandise sales and people like you. We do not receive any state or federal funding.

Help support our mission.

Donate Now

1926 Highway 169 • PO Box 161 • Ely MN 55731 • (218) 365-7879 • [email protected]