By Dr. Lynn Rogers and Sue Mansfield, www.bear.org
….There’s a need for officials to come up with a better definition of a bear ‘attack.’ Calling a single bite to a foot from a 60-pound yearling an attack, when the bite didn’t require medical attention, seems a stretch. We’ve known bears that were prone to bite as cubs and yearlings and outgrew that tendency as 2-year-olds.
Lack of knowledge and fear of lawsuits drive decisions to ‘play it safe’ and kill bears that raise questions. Killing a bear is the easy way out. It then sounds good to the public when the officials say they ‘had’ to kill the bear to protect public safety-that they prefer to err on the side of public safety. With all the hype on TV demonizing bears to get viewers, the public is ready to accept such statements, not thinking about the real odds. It’s a problem that requires education of the public and officials.
There’s so much more to bear behavior than the simplified version usually put forth as ‘educational’ material. We’re trying to provide a better understanding of bear behavior. Aside from our long-term studies, the bear-human interface is the probably the least studied area of bear biology despite its importance to bear management.
Three more BBC documentaries will be released from here in 2011 but they will surely be countered by sensationalized programs that demonize bears to grab viewers and ratings. Sensationalized programs that appeal to our fears seem to grab audiences and are put forth on TV much more readily than programs like Bearwalker.
We’re also putting together information on bear behavior for publication in scientific journals. The public tends not to read these, but they do carry scientific weight in fighting policies intended mainly to protect agencies against liability problems. We keep trying. The need is great. The job is almost overwhelming. Each day seems too short.
These bears continue to bring joy to our hearts and remind us why we do this work-just as Laurel reminds us of the continuing need for education….
Dr. Lynn Rogers and Sue Mansfield are finding out about bear behaviour by spending time with them much like Dr. Jane Goodall’s work with chimpanzees. Learn more about their work here: www.bear.org