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Bear Facts

November 10, 1996

Regarding the story by Judith Fraser ("Alone in the Woods . . . Bearly," Oct. 27) of her visit to Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks, we would like to put people's minds at ease.

We know of no records of a person being killed by a black bear in the Sierra Nevada. Attacks are rare and usually defensive. However, there have been hundreds of incidents of bears stealing food from people. Food left unattended or in a car is a common target, but some bears have learned that people will feed them, either directly or when they drop their picnic lunches and flee.

The bear that followed Fraser was doubtless one of the latter, interested not in her but in whatever food she might be carrying.

Fraser did precisely the right thing when she faced the bear, raised her arms and yelled. A strong offense is usually the best defense. Running, on the other hand, is not good. It tells the bear that you are easy to push around. With many predators, running provokes their instinct to give chase.

HAROLD W. WERNER

Wildlife Biologist

National Park Service

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