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Update: Actual Link to Controversial Bear Study

Discussion in 'General Gun Discussions' started by bhk, Mar 19, 2012.

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  1. bhk

    bhk Member

    Jun 17, 2006
    Wooded acreage in rural midwest
    A bear study thread I started on this site recently went on forever. Almost all the discussion was in response to a short newspaper article reviewing the study. Attached is the text of the actual study for those that might be interested in the details. I haven't had time to read it yet, but am interested to see if our responses are the same to the entire text as they were to the 'tease' the newspaper gave us.

  2. KodiakBeer

    KodiakBeer member

    Apr 10, 2010
    Kodiak, AK
    That's pretty interesting stuff and I thank you for finding the study in its entirety.

    In just perusing the study briefly, I see a number of statements that strike me as odd. For example; The best model for firearm success relative to bear variables included species, cohort, and whether the bear charged...

    You know, people around here (and I make this point several times in my book), characterize shooting a bear that didn't charge as "Some idiot shot a bear". Brown bears commonly make a threat display which everyone with sense considers an invitation to back away, because that's exactly what the bear is saying: "Back away". If you shoot such a bear, you may very well precipitate an attack. If you kill the bear, well, it wasn't an attack anyway and so why include it in a study on bear attacks?

    If you include incidents like that in the study without filing them in a separate category as such as "Model D: People using guns stupidly", then you're kind of tainting the models where people use guns correctly and save themselves by doing so.

    I want to read this carefully before replying further, but just in a brief review a number of things jumped out at me. The statement above is just one example.

  3. pintler

    pintler Member

    Jan 26, 2008
    Thanks much for finding that!

    From the study:
    When we compared outcomes for people who used their firearm in an aggressive bear encounter(n=229) to those who had firearms but did not use them (n=40), we found no difference in the outcome...

    I think you have to be real careful about what that is saying.

    If you could do the experiment in the lab, you'd put 1000 people in test tubes, randomly give guns to half, and put bears into the tubes. Then you could compare whether more of the people with guns survived.

    That's not quite the same as this study, though. It's well known that bears bluff charge and so on, and that shooting a bear is something to be avoided if at all possible (because bears are endangered, your justification is subject to review, you have to skin them, ...).

    Imagine we have three groups of armed people. For group A, we have a bear bluff charge to within 20 yards. For group B we have a bear bluff charge to 1 yard. For group C the bear isn't bluffing and actually attacks. It's reasonable to expect that fewer people in group A will fire their weapon than in groups B and C. When you divide all the people into the groups 'did fire' and 'did not fire', the 'did nots' are going to include proportionately more people from group A - people who were in no danger because it was a bluff charge anyway - and conversely, the 'dids' are going to include proportionately more people from group C (who wouldn't shoot when the bear is actually biting you). But group C is more likely to be hurt. In short, the people who are in the direst straits are the most likely to shoot. In statistical terms, whether you shoot isn't independent of the amount of danger you face.

    I'm not sure retrospective analysis like this can really tease out those differences,

    (this is not to suggest guns are a panacea for bear defense; lotsa good things to be said for spray)
  4. Cosmoline

    Cosmoline Member

    Dec 29, 2002
    Los Anchorage
    I raised the DLP issue earlier, and they address it on page 5. They note their failure to include these DLP records due to apparent privacy issues, but claim it doesn't matter because even if they had access they don't expect it would have added few, if any HUMAN INJURIES to their database.

    So in other words, adding the voluminous DLP shooting database would have increased the number of successful shootings of bears with correspondingly few if any human injuries. And in so doing, increased the percentage of successful firearm deployments. They pretty much admit this in their findings.

    By relying instead on newspaper articles, they are selecting their database in favor of human injuries. Ordinary DLP shootings don't make the papers because "nothing happens" other than a drawn firearm and a dead bear. But of course that's precisely what we WANT to occur in a successful bear defense.

    There's also no accounting made of missed shots and vanishing bears with no human injuries. Is that a "success"? Maybe, but it happens a lot with and without any corresponding report to F&G. No dead bear, so nothing really to report. It's anecdotal I know, but I have yet to hear from any long time homesteader or trapper who hasn't shot at a bear at some point and had the animal run off. It's not uncommon, and these kinds of pot shots were the standard practice for settlers dealing with all bears in all circumstances until the legal situation changed a few decades ago. They're still SOP in villages, where it's referred to as giving the bear a "belly ache." It seems to work.

    I think there are some valuable conclusions here, but the study should have focused solely on the material it could reliably collect rather than attempting to draw overall conclusions about the use of firearms in all bear encounters.

    From all I've seen and experienced here, a high powered long gun is going to be the best weapon against bear and will be more effective at longer ranges with slower moving bears. Once you've got a bear charging, let alone attacking, the effective rate of firearms of all types starts to decrease more and more for the simple reason that it's danged difficult to get one up, aimed and firing fast enough. In those circumstances, which is really what the article examined, the spray appears to be just as good as a firearm. BUT (and this is a big but), the goal needs to be to NEVER EVER get in those circumstances to begin with, because even a "successful" defense after the mauling starts will likely leave serious permanent injuries. I would therefore view any physical attack by the bear as a failure of whatever defenses you were using. Whether you had to shoot it off or spray it off, you're going to be hurting.

    The best way of preventing that is to plan ahead and follow the usual precautionary rules about where and when to hike and how to camp. I'd also add the great importance of using your ears and nose, not just your eyes. And your mind of course.
    Last edited: Mar 19, 2012
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