TODAY   |  August 18, 2013

What’s behind spike in human-bear encounters?

“Think of a bear as a stomach with teeth and claws,” said an expert. The recent bear attacks across the country could be on the increase because of several factors. NBC’s Michelle Franzen reports.

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>>> we're seeing a lot of bears lately, the critters leaving their natural habitat , getting a little too close to comfort for people in homes and neighborhoods. is it something we are doing? michelle franzen takes a look at why they're leaving their homes and heading for ours.

>> reporter: imagine walking into your home and seeing this, a black bear sleeping on the back patio, a frightening sight for mason in naples, florida.

>> you don't really think when you see something like that, so we were all just freaking out.

>> reporter: the kids were with a babysitter. mason quickly texted his mom who rushed home.

>> this is the closest i've ever come to a bear let alone a seven to eight foot bear sitting on my back porch.

>> reporter: the bear eventually wandered off and the family was fine but others haven't been so lucky. on friday northern alaska, air rescue crews reached a hunter in a remote area near the gates of the arctic national park . officials say he'd been mauled by a brown bear similar to one like this. and in michigan earlier this week, a bear attacked 12-year-old abby while she was out for a run.

>> she had suffered two deep lacerations to her thigh.

>> reporter: experts say there could be several factors for the recent attacks. first, we're living closer to their natural space.

>> you really want to exhibit a lot of respect around bears. sometimes bears bring the wild into their own homes.

>> reporter: bears are in search of food before winter sets in this bear was on the hunt in colorado springs . security cameras in an alley behind a restaurant captured it on its hind legs carting away a dumpster.

>> think of a bear as a stomach with teeth and clausws, always hungry, always looking to pack on weight and follow their nose to a ready meal.

>> reporter: close encounters that have some residents on edge the. for "today," michelle pran zen, nbc news.