Seven people were mauled by bears since 2016 according to records maintained by the forest department. The victims suffered major face disfigurement and eye damage.
According to research the majority of black bear attacks tend to be motivated by hunger rather than territoriality, and thus victims have a higher probability of surviving by fighting back rather than submitting.
When attacking humans, black bears tend to rear up on their hind legs and knock victims over with their paws. They then make one or two bites on an arm or leg and finish with a snap to the head, this being the most dangerous part of the attack, say researchers.
The forest official said that most of the incidents took place while the victims ventured into the forest in search of mushrooms, collecting firewood or when guarding their domestic cattle in the forest.
Most of the incidences have been reported from places like Gasa, Wangduephodrang, Haa, Dagana, Bumthang and Thimphu.
The forest official said that till date there were no records of people being mauled by bears in the southern regions. Since 2016, two incidences have been reported where a bear attacked a retreat hut in Tango, Thimphu, and a butter lamp storehouse in Paro Taktshang.
Meanwhile, the rehabilitation centre in Taba tends to sick and injured bears and cubs and released them back in the forest after recovery.
The forest official from the rehabilitation centre said that it would be safer to make noise and hoot while in the forest to avoid sudden encounters with bears as most of the recorded bear attacks in the wild have resulted from humans surprising the bear.
“The Himalayan black bear is a savage animal, sometimes attacking without provocation, and inflicting horrible wounds, attacking generally the head and face with their claws, while using their teeth also on a prostrate victim. It is not uncommon to see men who have been terribly mutilated; some having the scalp torn from the head, and many sportsmen have been killed by these bears,” states a research paper on the Himalayan bear.
Also apparently the old tip of playing dead is not a good idea if there is no escape but instead one should fight back fight back. A charging bear attacks as it takes the human as potential prey. On should try fighting back using any object available and aim kicks and blows on the bears face and snout which may disorient the bear and give one valuable time to make an escape. Himalayan Bear generally attack the face. If one cannot fight back it is better to drop down to the ground and cover the neck and face with hands to cut blows on the face and skull.
The old tip of outrunning a bear uphill or downhill is also not a good idea as a human cannot outrun a Himalayan Bear since they consider running as an opportunity to pursue their prey. Likewise, one should not climb a tree as bears are skilled tree climbers.
One way to avoid bears is to make noise while moving on trails and if one does encounter a bear at a distance one should not make any sudden movements but talk gently identifying yourself as a human and slowly back away sideways avoiding direct eye contact.