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18 more things I learned in my reading for the forthcoming story about bears



Melissa Lyttle and I have a story on bears in the suburbs of Orlando set for the February Floridian mag. In this space, though, first there were 30 things I underlined in a book called Bear Attacks by bear expert Stephen Herrero, and now here's some of what I underlined in a paper he had published in April 2011 in the Journal of Wildlife Management:

1. Black bear have compact and strong muscles and can run fast for short distances.

2. ... physical contact is a minor component of aggressive interactions.

3. Black bear are a biologically successful, widely distributed species, found from northern Mexico to, and occasionally beyond, the northern limit of trees in Canada and Alaska.

4. During the 1980s and 1990s most black bear populations grew numerically and geographically. In the United States and Canada, 60 percent of states and provinces reported increasing populations ...

5. Black bear numbers and their wide distribution lead to extensive contact with another widely distributed, numerically successful mammal, human beings.

6. Black bear are often drawn into conflict situations with humans after being attracted by people's food or edible garbage.

7. Threat behaviors seldom lead to physical attack by a black bear provided the bear is given the personal space it requires to feel secure.

8. People's acceptance of some probability of black bear-inflicted injury, even fatal injury, is essential for bear conservation.

9. There was a positive linear relationship between the number of fatal black bear attacks per decade and human population size in the United States and Canada per decade.

10. Each year, millions of interactions between people and black bears occur without any injury to a person, although by 2 years of age most black bears have the physical capacity to kill a person.

11. Why have the number of fatal attacks increased over time and in most decades, and why have 86 percent of all known fatal attacks occurred since 1960?

12. More people are having more opportunities to interact with black bears, which in itself increases the chances of human-black bear interactions and thus the occasional fatal attack.

13. ... people of all ages and sexes were victims of fatal attacks showing that fatal attacks do not favor young, small, or older people.

14. ... no specific activity by a person, beyond being in bear habitat and near the attacking bear, was associated with fatal injuries.

15. Our experience with bear behavior and attacks leads us to speculate that black bears that become increasingly aggressive in going after people's food or garbage have an increased chance of initiating a serious or fatal attack. People's unsecured food or garbage is recognized as being a root cause of human-bear conflict.

16. ... male bear were responsible for most predatory attacks ...

17. Females select habitat and behave to support security.

18. If a bear acts stressed and is showing defensive threat behaviors, then a predatory attack is unliekly, which is counterintuitive to many people because the bear is acting aggressively. However, this aggression is defensive, and if the bear is given space it will likely leave. Also, if an aggressive female with young is encountered, a predatory attack is extremely unlikely since most predatory attacks by black bear were by single male bear. While female black bear, even with cubs, seldom attack people they can be provoked into attacking if harassed by people or dogs.

[Last modified: Thursday, January 23, 2014 1:55pm]


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