Treat bears with caution, respect

Every year we hear stories about people and bears. Some of them are tragic–young campers being killed, people mauled, badly wounded, and sent to hospital, and even one or two cases of people being killed and partially eaten by bears.

These are horrifying stories. But in almost every case, common sense and a minimum of knowledge would have avoided the tragedies.

We also hear some stories about the incredible stupidity of some people with regards to bears. How about the parents who urge their child to go and pat the “nice” wild bear so they can get a picture. And the idiot who tried to push a bear into his car so he could get a picture of it beside his wife.

In the national parks, people feed the bears even though they are cautioned not to. They treat wild bears as though they were big, friendly, tame, and gentle animals–the kind in the fictional Disney movie.

Actually, the bear is not really a very disagreeable animal in most cases. In fact, a bear in the wild will avoid you if he can. If you and he happen to meet, he will be just as anxious as you to avoid a confrontation.

When dealing with any kind of animal, wild or tame, you should always act with caution. Move slowly, and never make any threatening moves.

It is wise to back away slowly from a head-on meeting. You cannot predict what a bear or other wild animal will do. He may be angered or frightened by any sudden move on your part so don’t make any.

One of the most dangerous meetings is between you and a female with cubs. Like almost all female animals, she can become a cyclone of destruction in defence of those cubs. You should never make any attempt to feed, pet, touch, or even go near bear cubs.

If you see a bear with cubs, move away as fast as you can without making any flashy, noisy movements.

The Black Bear (Ursus americanus) is one of the largest of our mammals. Adult males may weigh around 300-350 pounds, with an occasional giant at 600 pounds or more. The females (sows) are much smaller, weighing in at about 150 pounds.

They live to a large extent on vegetable matter–berries, nuts, fruit, and roots. They eat fish or meat whenever they can get it, especially fawns, young moose, and the young of domestic animals.

They are particularly fond of honey, and will tear up a wild bees nest (or a beekeeper’s hive) without paying any attention to all to the angry bees.

As everyone knows, bears hibernate in the winter. During this period, the heart beat slows way down, breathing is very shallow, and the whole metabolism is at a very low level.

The Disney films have given us the impression of sweet, gentle, friendly bears. Don’t you believe it! They are wild, unpredictable, and dangerous. Treat them with great caution and respect.