Bear-Inflicted Human Injuries and Fatalities in Yellowstone

Since 1979, Yellowstone has hosted over 118 million visits. During this time, 44 people were injured by grizzly bears in the park. For all park visitors combined, the chances of being injured by a grizzly bear are approximately 1 in 2.7 million visits. The risk is significantly lower for people who don't leave developed areas or roadsides, and higher for anyone hiking in the backcountry.

Type of Recreational Activity: Risk of Grizzly Bear Attack

Remain in developed areas, roadsides, and boardwalks: 1 in 59.5 million visits
Camp in roadside campgrounds: 1 in 26.6 million overnight stays
Camp in the backcountry: 1 in 1.7 million overnight stays
Hike in the backcountry: 1 in 232,613 person travel days
All park activities combined: 1 in 2.7 million visits

If you plan to hike, learn about the best practices for exploring bear country.


Grizzly bear-inflicted injuries to humans in developed areas averaged approximately one per year during the 1930s through the 1950s, and four per year during the 1960s. Grizzly bear-caused human injuries in developed areas then decreased to one injury every two years (0.5/year) during the 1970s. Since 1980, there have been only two (0.1/year) grizzly bear-caused human injuries in developed areas, an average of approximately one every 20 years. Over the same time span, there have been 34 human injuries caused by grizzly bears in the backcountry: an average of one per year.


Since Yellowstone was established in 1872, eight people have been killed by bears in the park. More people in the park have died from drowning (125 incidents) and burns (after falling into hot springs, 23 incidents) than have been killed by bears. To put it in perspective, the probability of being killed by a bear in the park (8 incidents) is only slightly higher than the probability of being killed by a falling tree (7 incidents), in an avalanche (6 incidents), or being struck and killed by lightning (5 incidents). Here is summary of each fatality:

  • August 2015 - a day hiker, hiking by himself, was killed by an adult female grizzly bear with two cubs near the Elephant Back Loop Trail in the Lake Village
  • August 2011 - a day hiker, hiking by himself, was killed by a grizzly bear on the Mary Mountain Trail in Hayden Valley.
  • July 2011 - a day hiker in a party of two was killed by an adult female grizzly bear with 2 cubs on the Wapiti Lake Trail in Hayden Valley.
  • October 1986 - a photographer was killed by an adult female grizzly bear near Otter Creek in Hayden Valley.
  • July 1984 - a grizzly bear killed a backpacker in a backcountry campsite located at the southern end of White Lake near Pelican Valley.
  • June 1972 - an old adult female grizzly bear killed a man in an illegally established camp. The man surprised the bear when he returned to his campsite at night. The bear was in his camp feeding on food that he had left out unsecured in the campsite.
  • August 1942 - a bear killed a woman at night in the Old Faithful campground. The species of bear involved was not determined.
  • 1916 - a grizzly bear killed a man in a roadside camp.
  • A possible fatality supposedly occurred in 1907 when a man was attacked by a female grizzly bear after he prodded her cub with an umbrella. The account of the incident appeared in a popular book, "Book of a Hundred Bears" published in 1909 by F.D. Smith. However, the validity of this incident is questionable as there is no mention of it in official park reports or local newspapers from 1907. The "Book of a Hundred Bears" contains many stories without providing back-up documentation. The 1907 story appears to be an unsubstantiated legend.

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Last updated: November 29, 2022

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