Categories: Conservation

Grizzly bears avoid humans by becoming nocturnal

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In British Columbia, Western Canada, grizzly bears have learned to improve their chances of survival by gradually, over their lifetime, becoming far more nocturnal in their activities.

Grizzly bears. Photo now in the public domain.

A study monitored the activities of 2,700 grizzlies over 40 years in British Columbia. The researchers concluded that the grizzly bears appear to have appreciated the risk that humans posed to them and change their behaviour accordingly.

From the age of three, bears normally begin to operate independently. At this time they appear to have increased their night-time activities by 2 to 3% per year. Their survival rate increased to the same extent i.e. 2% to 3% annually.

Normally, grizzly bears are active during the day and night. In areas where people were more active the bears were more nocturnal. In fact they were nocturnal 70% of the time by the end of their normal lifespan of 25 years.

The survey demonstrates that bears understand the risk and can make a conscious decision to mitigate against it by avoiding the risk.

The bears are wise because in Canada they like to shoot bears for sport. From the mid-20th century to the 1980s Canadian hunters shot a lot of grizzly bears for sport and because they considered them to be vermin. Gradually the idea of conservation dawned on the human population and the bear populations has rebounded in forested areas. Hunters still shoot 340 bears annually.

The co-author of the study, Clayton Lamb, which is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy Of Sciences, said that the bears want to live in peace with humans and that it is a two-way street. The bear is contributing and therefore humans need to as well. Bravo. When will that concept, that simple concept, dawn on people across the planet? It is a long time coming in Canada with respect to grizzly bears. I shake my head when I think how long it might take for this attitude of living in harmony with wild animals takes hold across the planet. My guess is that it will take perhaps 200 years.

MikeB

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