Seven people in five states were attacked by wild bears in the last four days, which is more than enough to make people wonder if there's some kind of trend going on here. Specifically, are bears the new sharks?
We're all familiar by now with the media phenomenon that takes place when a cluster of shark attacks turns the world's beaches into a new Jaws sequel. Who could forget the infamous "Summer of the Shark" in 2001? Or the "Summer of the Shark" in 2009. Or 2012. Or maybe even 2013? But now we could be looking at at "Summer of the Bear," or at least the One Weekend in August of the Bear."
There's more than just bear attacks, too. Just in the last couple of weeks bears have spotted on screened-in-porches, in kitchens, and in bars. There have been bears being rescued, bears stealing dumpsters, and bears rescuing other bears from dumpsters.
And that doesn't even include the uber-popular BearCam (Explore.org's livesteram of salmon fishing bears in Alaska) and arguably one of the most popular viral videos of the year, these wild bears going to town on their favorite scratching post.
The good news is that, like sharks, the odds of getting attacked by a bear are still very remote, and the odds of being killed even greater. (Thankfully, none of this weekend's victims received fatal injuries and the number of deadly bear attacks this decade can be counted on two hands.) Unlike sharks, however, there is no frenzy to hunt down and eliminate bears on a massive scale. Over 100 million sharks are killed every year, most of them only for their fins and many, many species are in danger of extinction.
In North America, bears are already essentially a protected class of animal, with strict hunting quotas and severe restrictions on trading of bear parts. (Polar bears are sadly exempt, and also the most endangered by climate change.) Human and bears live closer together than we ever have, yet we do our best to tolerate each other. Even the massive popularity of shark-themed television can't save our fishy friends from overharvesting and the permanent role of the pop culture villain.
The reason of course is that bears are adorable and sharks are scary. (Ghost Shark, anyone?) Yet, fear seems to be more powerful than love, since bears still can't compete with sharks for the public's entertainment/news dollar. Sure, we all have teddy bears, but bear-themed horror movies and scary news reports are still few and far between.
Then again, there was another shark attack this weekend in Hawaii, too. So despite their busy week, bears still have a long way to go to become top... uh, dog.