December 18, 2018

Tale of Two Bears or Two Different Perspectives on Bears

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“When a bear sees a human, they will run and hide and more likely than not the human will never know the bear was there.” Or perhaps those old and worn out adages about bears can best be seen by example with this one: “They’re more afraid of you than you are of them.”

Do we really understand animal behavior? In particular, do we really understand bear behavior? All of us know of the two fairy tales – Little Red Riding Hood and Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Little Red Riding Hood first made it to print in the 1600s but the tale is known to have been told to children as early as the 900s. Was it all fairy tale?

Of course not. Just like Goldilocks, the stories were told to children to teach them that both wolves and bears can be dangerous wild animals. I wonder if children in the 1600s were told that bears are more afraid of them than they are of the bears?

One of the problems we face today, that I doubt occurred on the same level in 1600, is the political agendas, driven by money and greed, that foment false information about animal behavior. For whatever the reasons, predators, such as bears and wolves/coyotes, seem to have attained, in certain people’s minds, a higher level of existence, perhaps even compared to that of humans, and demands are predominant that these potentially deadly creatures need to be protected at many levels. With that thought, it then becomes necessary to stop telling the Red Riding Hood and Goldilocks stories and instead replace them with stories of how important these “keystone predators” and “species indicators” are; that they deserve a better life than humans have given them in the past, resulting in, “they are more afraid of you than you are of them.” Over the years this agenda-driven propaganda now shows its ugly face in the offices of fish and game departments and consequently in our newspapers and television sets, among others.

Because of this brainwashing, which of course, is what it is, and the fact that because all of us are human and thus our perspectives vary based on the degree of brainwashing and willingness to be intellectually lazy and accept politically motivated advocacy, disguised as science, we see differing accounts of animal behavior in newspaper and other media sources, most always originating from the halls of fish and game headquarters.

We know that few, if any, media outlets bother to investigate claims made by government officials or any one else that might be deemed “officials”, with the onset of computer technology, it’s much easier to “copy and paste.”

Consider the tale of two newspaper accounts about black bears and bear behavior. One account, from the Bangor Daily News in Maine, tells of what behavior black bears take on as they head into fall, gorging themselves on food in preparation for the long upcoming winter hibernation.

Below are a few comments and quotes taken from the BDN news article.

Yet human-bear conflicts rarely increase during the bears’ fall foraging frenzy, according to both Cross and Vashon. Fall is a time when natural food is abundant, and that’s usually what bears are going after.

(Human-bear conflicts are actually more common in the spring, when a bear has just emerged from its den and is searching for sustenance when natural food is scarce.)

“Most conflicts happen where people aren’t used to having bears around,”

Still, Maine’s estimated 31,000 black bears keep to themselves, if they can help it. And upon seeing a human, they typically will run in the opposite direction.

“The only problem is when a bear is cornered. I think that’s when you’re at the greatest risk — If you’re between a bear and cubs or between a bear and its escape route,” Vashon said. “A good example is if you find a bear in your garage and you’re blocking the door.”

Let me point out that the information given in this account isn’t necessarily false information. It’s just that, like most of these reports, they never tell about the conditions that come up when bears are more likely to encounter humans and why. It’s always about how rare it is. Well, rarity is subjective and nobody that I’m aware of cares of the rarity of human/bear encounters when they have been attacked, “inexplicably” by a bear.

Take as an example what went on in nearby Nova Scotia. Two women, in the woods east of Port Lorne, between East Shore Road and the Bay of Fundy, were chased by a black bear for about an hour. Eventually, the two women came upon a hunting camp, described in the report as a shack, broke out a window and went inside to escape the attacking bear. Is this some of that “rare” bear behavior? Or, is this some of that animal behavior we really don’t know anything about?

All the talking points found in media accounts and repeated faithfully by those infamous “bear experts” say that bears won’t bother people unless people bother them, or that the animal is sick or wounded, or we mess with their young. According to the report, the women, while in the woods were doing what officials had taught them to do. In addition there doesn’t seem to be any outward signs of anything wrong with the bear.

The bear’s behaviour caused department staff much concern because the women made noise when they walked into the woods. That is supposed to make any nearby bear move away to avoid human interaction.

But this doesn’t match all that advise about how to be safe.

Even when they backed away from it and yelled when it kept coming too close, the bear continued to advance on them.

The girls managed to get into the cabin, but the animal circled it for close to an hour trying to get inside, even reaching through the window the women broke to climb through. The women pushed a couch up against the window to try to keep the bear outside.

And yet officials repeat and media copies and pastes how rare it is for bears to bother humans. Remember, they are more afraid of you than you are of them. This is “unexplained” behavior with no attempt to explain the bears behavior and to alter talking points about bear behavior.

“It’s an unnerving situation, no question about it,” admitted Boudreau. “That’s not normal behaviour, when you look at all the encounters and dealings that we have on a provincewide scale.”

And therein lies some of the rub. It’s not “normal” behavior when you consider all the bears and the few reported cases of bear attacks. Automobile accidents are rare, when you consider the millions of drivers and driving hours nationwide but do we tell people they are rare? So why keep repeating the mantra that bears are more afraid or of the rarity when it would be just as easy to explain that under circumstances, some of which we have no clue about, all wild animals will do unpredictable things; like chase two women through the woods for over an hour or drag a kid out of a tent, etc.

I got my biggest chuckle out of the comment from the Maine bear biologist who said in reference to how bears won’t bother you unless you are blocking their escape route and gives the following example:

“A good example is if you find a bear in your garage and you’re blocking the door.”

This should have been a teachable moment explaining what the hell a bear would be doing in your garage to begin with. If it’s so rare that bears bother people and they’re more afraid of us, what are they doing in our garages that we need to be concerned about whether we are blocking their escape route? And why use that as an example of why a bear would attack?

It’s simple really. Instead of always having the programmed need to protect the bear or wolf or whatever the wild animal is, declaring it to be something always cute and cuddly, why not explain to people the conditions that can exist that increases the changes of encountering a bear?

Officials talk of the abundance of natural food bears gorge on. What happens with bears if that natural food is scare? What happens to bear behavior when there’s too many bears that can be fed with all that natural food? What happens to bear behavior when there too many bears AND not enough natural food? What happens to bear behavior when people intentionally and unintentionally feed bears? And how do you explain how brilliant we think we are, when bears and other animals do things we can’t explain? What do you tell two women, who went into the woods and did just as they were told to do and were attacked by a bear anyway?

I guess we just write another news article and repeat the same old, worn out talking points: bear encounters are rare, they’re more afraid, bears are shy, and above all else, make sure you make noise to scare the bears away and if they don’t run away, look big, make more noise and wave your arms…..before the bear makes lunch out of them.

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