Circumstances of human conflicts with bears and patterns of bear maul injuries in Bhutan: Review of records 2015-2019

PLoS One. 2020 Aug 20;15(8):e0237812. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0237812. eCollection 2020.


Bhutan is one of the biological hotspots in the world where humans and natural flora and fauna co-exist in close proximity. Bhutan is home to two species of bears: Sloth Bear and Himalayan Black Bear. Human conflicts with bears are reported from all over the country. This study describes the profile of the victims and the pattern of injury resulting from bear attacks and circumstances around human conflicts with bears in Bhutan between 2015 and 2019. This was a cross-sectional study with a review of hospital records of patients treated at the National Referral Hospital from 01 January 2015 till 31 December 2019. Data were extracted into a structured pro forma and entered into EpiData Entry 3.1 and analysed in STATA 13.1. There were thirty-four patients who were provided care for bear maul injuries, with an average annual caseload of 6.8 cases per year. The injury prevalence was 100% and the kill prevalence was 0%. Bear attacks were reported from fourteen of twenty districts of the country. The mean age of the victims was 49 (±13) years. Males (26, 76%) and farmers (26, 76%) were the common victims; the risk of bear attacks was 0.16 per 100,000 farmers per year. The commonest region of the body attacked was the face (29, 85%) and victims were provided emergency and rehabilitative care within and outside the country. Thirty-three victims (97%) were provided post-exposure prophylaxis for rabies. All victims received antibiotics despite the lack of national guidelines on the choice of antibiotics post-bear maul. Human-bear conflict is multi-faceted, puts a considerable strain on bear-conservation efforts and requires multi-disciplinary efforts in the prevention of human injury and socioeconomic losses.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aggression / physiology*
  • Aggression / psychology
  • Animals
  • Animals, Wild / psychology
  • Animals, Wild / virology
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Bhutan / epidemiology
  • Bites and Stings / epidemiology*
  • Bites and Stings / physiopathology
  • Bites and Stings / surgery
  • Bites and Stings / virology
  • Ear / injuries
  • Ear / physiopathology
  • Ear / surgery
  • Emergency Service, Hospital
  • Farmers
  • Female
  • Forests
  • Fractures, Bone / epidemiology
  • Fractures, Bone / physiopathology
  • Fractures, Bone / surgery
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Plastic Surgery Procedures / methods
  • Rabies / epidemiology
  • Rabies / pathology
  • Rabies / virology
  • Surgery, Plastic / methods
  • Ursidae / physiology*
  • Ursidae / psychology
  • Young Adult

Grants and funding

The author(s) received no specific funding for this work.