Man dragged 75 feet by bear in Arizona, killed in unprovoked attack; bear shot dead by neighbor

The incident marks the second deadly bear attack in the state in recent decades.

ByMeredith Deliso ABCNews logo
Friday, June 16, 2023
Bear kills man in Prescott, Arizona; bear shot dead by neighbor
A man was killed in a vicious bear attack in Arizona.

PRESCOTT, Ariz. -- A 66-year-old man was killed by a bear in Arizona on Friday in what authorities described as a "highly unusual," unprovoked attack.

The incident occurred in a remote, forested area of Groom Creek near Prescott, which is located about 100 miles north of Phoenix.

The victim -- identified as Steven Jackson, of Tucson -- was in the process of building a cabin in the area, authorities said. He was sitting in a chair outside of his campsite before 8 a.m. local time when a bear attacked him, according to Yavapai County Sheriff David Rhodes.

The bear dragged him about 75 yards and "was in the process of consuming him," Rhodes said during a press briefing Friday.

Neighbors heard his screams for help amid the struggle and tried to scare the bear away by yelling and honking horns, but to no avail, officials said. One neighbor eventually grabbed a rifle and shot the bear, killing it, but Jackson was already dead, authorities said.

Multiple people called 911 reporting a man being mauled by a bear, authorities said. Rhodes said there was "a bit of shock and disbelief" at what responders found, calling it a unique, tragic situation.

Rhodes said Jackson was "well-liked" in the tight-knit community.

The animal in question was an adult male black bear that appeared healthy and showed no obvious signs of being sick or diseased, according to Darren Tucker, a field supervisor with the Arizona Game and Fish Department.

"This attack appears to be predatory in nature," Tucker said. "This situation is extremely unusual, not the norm."

Bear attacks often involve "some nexus to food," Tucker said, which their investigation will explore. Though "nothing jumped out at us as being obvious of why this occurred," he said.

A full necropsy on the bear may also shed some light on why this happened, Tucker said.

Wildlife officials have not had any reports of aggressive or threatening behavior from bears in that area and were not on the lookout for the offending bear, Tucker said.

With the bear dead, there is no threat to the public, authorities said.

Following Friday's attack, the sheriff's office advised residents to not shoot bears "unless there is an immediate threat," as it is otherwise against the law.

Arizona is home to only black bears and attacks are uncommon, according to Arizona Game and Fish Department spokesperson John Trierweiler.

Friday's incident marks the 15th reported bear attack in the state since the late 1980s, and the second fatal one, according to Trierweiler.

The last deadly bear attack occurred in 2011 in Pinetop, the department said.

ABC News' Matthew Fuhrman contributed to this report.