New research suggests dogs are a safety hazard in bear country

Black bear

A dog can have many roles: accessory, companion, protector, bed hog, food thief, and most commonly, “man’s best friend.”

But new research suggests that when faced with a bear, your furry friend may be nothing more than a safety hazard.

Steven Herrero, a world-renowned bear researcher out of the University of Calgary, is challenging the idea that dogs help protect their owners in a bear attack.

“It just struck me that dogs seemed to be involved in a lot of attacks,” he told The Calgary Herald.

This of course brings to mind past tales of heroic dogs saving their owners from bad situations. Remember the 4-pound wiener dog that died trying to save its owner from a 400-pound bear? Or last summer when an Ontario man walking his two dogs was mauled by a black bear? His Schnauzer intervened, sacrificing its life, and the man was able to escape. These dogs are remembered as heroic, but what if there is some innate bear-dog rivalry we don’t know about?

“They are long-evolved competitors,” Herrero told CBC, referring to bears and the wolf ancestry of housebroken dogs.

According to CBC, Herrero and another researcher looked at 92 bear attacks in North America in the past five years. Forty-nine included dogs, half of which were attacked by black bears, and seven were even killed. Due to conflicting media reports, the researchers said it was hard to determine whether the dogs had been on or off leash during the attacks.

Regardless, Herrero said that a majority of the data still shows that the dog had been loose and could have drawn the bear to their owner.

“If you’re out there in bear country, probably you should keep your dog under control,” he told CBC.