Survival Animal Attacks

The Bear That Attacked and Killed Arizona Man Wasn’t Rabid or Starving

“I saw further down the hill the bear was there, and I got his attention, and I shot the bear. The bear rolled off Steven … and I shot again”
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The black bear dragged the victim 75 feet down an embankment in the woods. Yavapai County Sheriff's Office

A wildlife veterinarian with the Arizona Game and Fish Department determined the adult black bear that killed and consumed a man near Prescott, Arizona, on June 16 didn’t have rabies or any other signs of disease, according to an AZGFD press release

Dr. Anne Justice-Allen conducted a necropsy on the 365-pound, 7- to 10-year-old male bear. She reported that the boar’s body fat percentage indicated he was in “good nutritional condition.” Tests on the bear’s brainstem tested negative for rabies, and he was healthy overall. Contents of the bear’s stomach included human remains “consistent with the injuries found in the victim.”

Steven Jackson, 66, was sitting at an outdoor table on his property drinking coffee when the attack happened. The Tuscon resident was building his dream home in the woods near Groom Creek in Prescott National Forest. The bear took Jackson by surprise at around 7:50 a.m. and dragged him 75 feet down an embankment, according to the Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office. 

The campsite where an Arizona man was fatally attacked.
The campsite where the man was attacked did not have attractants like food or water access. Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office

“At first glance there did not appear to be anything on the site that would have precipitated [an] attack by the bear, such as food, a cooking site or access to water,” YCSO wrote in a Facebook post

Neighbors heard Jackson screaming and tried to scare the bear off him with shouts and car horns. But nothing worked until someone woke up neighbor David Montano.

“He said, ‘A bear’s got Steven; grab your gun,’” Montano told 12News.

“I saw further down the hill the bear was there, and I got his attention, and I shot the bear,” said Montano, who used a rifle. “The bear rolled off Steven … and I shot again.”

Montano’s shots killed the bear. YCSO and AZGFD officers responding to neighbors’ 911 calls arrived at the scene and pronounced Jackson dead and noted “horrible injuries.”

“It’s just such a loss here for all of us,” Montano said. “He was just the happiest guy. It was like he had no problems in the world. He just only cared about making people happy and living a great life for himself. And he had that full dream unfolding right in front of us.”

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Only one other fatal black bear attack has been recorded in Arizona since 1990, when AZGFD started keeping bear attack records. In June 2011, a large adult male black bear killed Lara Hollingsworth while she was walking her dog at night. The attack happened near the Pinetop Country Club in Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest, immediately adjacent to the Fort Apache Reservation. In total, 15 bear attacks have occurred in Arizona, where only black bears are native.