Researchers from Alaska found that guns were 99% effective vs. bears. The authors of "Characteristics of Nonsport Mortalities to Brown and Black Bears and Human Injuries from Bears in Alaska" reviewed 2,289 incidents from 1970-1996 when people killed bears in defense of life or property. The researchers said, "Most of the persons shooting brown bears or black bears in [defense of life or property] DLP circumstances indicated that no human injury occurred (98.5% for brown bears and 99.2% for black bears)."
Clearly, guns are an effective tool against bears.
The researchers made a good faith effort to find all newspaper and magazine articles about people killed or injured by bears from 1986 to 1996 and found that brown bears caused 33 injuries and 5 deaths, while black bears were responsible for 3 injuries and 1 death. These injuries and deaths resulted from bear-human conflicts involving hikers, hunters, campers, fisherman, people walking their dogs, defense of life or property situations, and more. During the same time period, 668 brown bears and 356 black bears were killed in defense of life or property. In addition, sport hunters killed 12,615 brown bears and 18,323 black bears.
When people kill a bear in defense of life or property, they're required to bring the head and hide to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. This is a nasty chore, so when people with a license to hunt bears are forced to kill a bear in defense of life or property, they sometimes use their hunting tag and save themselves a lot of hard work. The researchers noted, "Our DLP records do not include all DLP kills because some bears shot in DLP are reported as sport kills."
The researchers also noted that "Data on injuries from bears are minimal figures because not all injuries are reported and some newspaper accounts are probably missed."
The researchers did not believe all bear deaths were justified. They said, "It is clear that some people needlessly shot brown bears because they considered the bear to be immediately dangerous or charging . . . Better education on how to recognize a dangerous bear would help reduce some needless shootings."
Guns can be misused. Bear spray advocates claim this is one reason why people should rely on bear spray, not guns. But bear spray is not as effective as a gun, so if human safety is the top priority, educating people about how to recognize a dangerous bear is a better idea
This peer-reviewed research by Sterling D. Miller and V. Leigh Tutterrow was published in 1999 in Ursus, a quarterly publication of the International Association for Bear Research and Management.