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Why aren't bears attacking us?

Old 06-05-10, 05:49 AM
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Why aren't bears attacking us?

The fact is that bear attacks are extremely rare. Why? What is it that we do so that, in spite of all the mistakes that we make, in spite of all the good smells that we emit, in spite of our very much naked apeness, what are the behaviors, the attitudes which are making us the most feared of all creatures?
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Old 06-05-10, 06:19 AM
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I'm hoping to find time to do some solo mountain biking and camping in North Washington north east of Mt Baker and head east towards Glacier National Park and my number one concern is bears, especially if I don't get up there until late August or September, when bears have only 1 goal - fatten up prior to hibernation.

There is another current thread about carrying a bear-proof food container (for anything that smells) - some folks are insisting that hanging a food bag from a tree is up to the task. I'm risk averse and do not intend taking any chances, so I might use both approaches.

If bears fear people today, I do not intend on counting on that being a long term proposition - there are too many idiots leaving food in cars etc. Primarily I imagine bears fear people because of association with hunters, but maybe the season and regions where bear hunting is permitted might not be extensive enough for that to be a well ingrained behavior.

In some of the (extensive) reading I've done in the last few days, it seems bear spray is a must-have item, but is apparently not allowed in some National Parks. In general the advice (and in some case park requirement) is to store food in bear-proof containers well away from your tent and even go as far as not going into your tent with the same clothes you wore when you were cooking.

I kid you not, if I could buy deodorant that smelled like forest-fire I'd shower in the stuff.
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Old 06-05-10, 06:25 AM
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Originally Posted by JeanM View Post
The fact is that bear attacks are extremely rare. Why? What is it that we do so that, in spite of all the mistakes that we make, in spite of all the good smells that we emit, in spite of our very much naked apeness, what are the behaviors, the attitudes which are making us the most feared of all creatures?
Evolution works. In this case the bears that behave in a way that lets them live a long life will be the ones that have lots of descendants who then inherit similar behaviors. Any bear that has a tendency to attack humans is likely to be quickly hunted down before it gets a chance to have many baby bears, so those tendencies won't be passed on to future generations.

An exception would be the polar bears - presumably they live in areas with such sparse human populations that people weren't able to hunt them down effectively when they did attack. So they did not need to have behaviors that included a fear of humans in order to successfully reproduce. But such behaviors were required for success by bears that have lived in areas with more substantial human populations.
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Old 06-05-10, 06:26 AM
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Don't know what keeps them away, but here's an interesting sign anyway
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Old 06-05-10, 06:33 AM
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For the most part bears don't want to have anything to do with humans. Why should they go to all the trouble of attacking a human when they can eat berries or insects or whatever. I don't think it's fear ... that they fear humans ... I think it's just inconvenient. I've seen numerous bears while cycling and travelling in Canada ... I've been quite close to a few ... but they couldn't be bothered with doing anything to me.

Note that there are different types of bears ... black bears, for example, don't eat much in the way of meat, and would much rather catch a fish than take on a human. If it happens that they come across a campsite with easily accessible, tasty-smelling food, they'll attempt to eat that food. A human could probably sit 50 feet away and watch while the bear ate all his/her food, and not be attacked.

Putting the food in an inaccessible place is less about preventing being attacked and more about ensuring that bears don't eat human food and get used to eating human food. It's bad for their digestive system to eat human food, and if they get used to eating human food and take a liking to it, they'll search it out, which puts them in danger because they start coming into towns, etc.

I've also heard (a number of years ago) that throughout most of the US, the bears have been mostly killed off, and that there really aren't that many of them left in that country. There are no bears in the UK and Australia (outside of zoos) so cycletourists in those countries wouldn't encounter bears. About the only place where you might run into them is when cycling through Alaska and Canada.

Have a read through "Banff National Park of Canada - A Guide to Safety and Conservation on the Trail"
https://www.pc.gc.ca/eng/pn-np/ab/ban...t/visit12.aspx

https://www.pc.gc.ca/eng/docs/v-g/our...ear/index.aspx

https://www.pbs.org/weekendexplorer/c...moth/bears.htm

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Old 06-05-10, 06:38 AM
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Attached thumbnail. Last sentence is the funniest.

In Alaska electric fences are popular, especially with Rangers and Professional Biologists.
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Old 06-05-10, 06:48 AM
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I've seen a black bear tip over a small camper.
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Old 06-05-10, 07:08 AM
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Originally Posted by Machka View Post
... I've also heard (a number of years ago) that throughout most of the US, the bears have been mostly killed off, and that there really aren't that many of them left in that country. ...
From one of the links you supplied:
Black bears are tremendously adaptive and are found in all of Canada, 32 states in the United States, and even 5 states in Mexico.
I've come across bear scat on numerous occasions in Oregon and Washington, and that is without heading off into some of the more remote regions. So it is somewhat misleading for you to state that they have been mostly killed off.

Brown bears are believed extinct in California (and probably also Oregon), but are still present in north east Washington.
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Old 06-05-10, 07:21 AM
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Originally Posted by prathmann View Post
Evolution works. In this case the bears that behave in a way that lets them live a long life will be the ones that have lots of descendants who then inherit similar behaviors. Any bear that has a tendency to attack humans is likely to be quickly hunted down before it gets a chance to have many baby bears, so those tendencies won't be passed on to future generations.

An exception would be the polar bears - presumably they live in areas with such sparse human populations that people weren't able to hunt them down effectively when they did attack. So they did not need to have behaviors that included a fear of humans in order to successfully reproduce. But such behaviors were required for success by bears that have lived in areas with more substantial human populations.
+1k

Also, the evolution of Humans in regards to our perfumes, colognes, shampoos, laundry detergents, means that bears can smell us from quite a distance. They are able to flea the scene without even needing a visual.
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Old 06-05-10, 08:01 AM
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bear are very rare? they are like oversized raccoons and hardly rare at all. the reason people don't see more bear is most retain a cautious fear of humans. bear are a diffuse species, a top land predator, and not like a herd animal.

i see bears all the time. i've seen them on beaches, on roads, in the woods, near peoples houses...... riding a bike lets you literally sneak up on animals like bear.

I've ridden up on one once trotting along on a gravel road. back in the 80s I almost HIT another one foraging on berries on a fire road in montana. i was coming downhill at speed around a blind corner on a fire road up in the gallatin wilderness, and whoot!

i personally believe that bear use backcountry roads like we do, as highways across the wilderness for easy travel versus the bushthwack when they are convenient. a bear will use a road, as a road, for part of the regular working of their territory.

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Old 06-05-10, 08:09 AM
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Bears flee fleas, too.
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Old 06-05-10, 08:11 AM
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It is also important to note that other than the previously mentioned polar bears, bears are not hunting predators. They are mostly scavengers with the massive ability to hunt and defend. They are not really out there looking to get us for the most part as it serves them no purpose to be hunting humans.

Besides, we are human. There is no way we are healthy enough to be worth all of the energy it would commonly take for them to attack and kill for means of a meal. Now that steak we are cooking around the campfire, might be of more concern
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Old 06-05-10, 08:21 AM
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Originally Posted by HoustonB View Post
So it is somewhat misleading for you to state that they have been mostly killed off.
I didn't state that they have been mostly killed off. You didn't read my comment correctly or carefully. I said, "I've also heard (a number of years ago) that throughout most of the US, the bears have been mostly killed off" ... that's what I was told ... not necessarily what is "fact".
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Old 06-05-10, 08:26 AM
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houstonb, if you're solo camping in the cascades, its the cougar you have to worry about. trouble is there's little you can do about them.

bear? just keep a clean camp.
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Old 06-05-10, 08:55 AM
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Originally Posted by prathmann View Post
Any bear that has a tendency to attack humans is likely to be quickly hunted down before it gets a chance to have many baby bears, so those tendencies won't be passed on to future generations.
Black bears are very common in parts of Arkansas. I was cycling there recently and encountered one grazing on the roadside. He split so quickly I was unable to get a picture.

I understand that a 'three strikes you're out' rule applies to bears. The Department of Wildlife will capture nuisance bears and put a tag in their ear. Three tags and they are put down as being dangerous to humans.
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Old 06-05-10, 09:05 AM
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Originally Posted by kuan View Post
I've seen a black bear tip over a small camper.
I've seen a cow tip over a buggy.

Could it be also that bears, as do most animals, fear us because we are the proven worst SOBs of the entire creation?
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Old 06-05-10, 09:43 AM
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Bears have an aversion to Surly LHT's, Brooks saddles, Topeak Road Morphs, Tubus racks and Ortlieb panniers.

If you deviate from any of these choices, you will get eaten.
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Old 06-05-10, 09:58 AM
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Originally Posted by HoustonB View Post
Brown bears are believed extinct in California
Brown bears, meaning the brown variety of the eastern black bear? Or are you speaking of the grizzly?
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Old 06-05-10, 10:49 AM
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I lived in western Montana in the Cabinet-Yaak Grizzly Recovery Zone where Grizzlies unwelcome in Glacier and Yellowstone NP were dumped. My log cabin was far from even a Forest Service Road. Daily walking, hiking, backpacking and river running made the bears part of daily living. We had no problems due to proper handling of food at home and in the forest. I still have my bear bells worn to alert rather than startle the bears. I never chose to use Bear Spray after talking with rangers in BC, ABT and MT. You have to be awake and aware of the terrain and vegetation around you. You could be part of the food chain. So either I have been lucky or used effective techniques that worked.

Also in my experience from decades of lengthy bike and kayak tours in Alaska, B.C., Alberta,Yukon, Washington,Idaho, and Oregon, both black bears and Grizzlies first become habituated to living off human garbage and then learn where humans tend to keep their fresh food. I camp away from where my fellow species members congregate, maintain a clean camp, hang or bear barrel food and have yet in all these years had a bear problem or attack. Most camp problems involve raccoons, mice and rats not bears. I use an Ursack on tour for all of these potential problems.

Ultimately I find that my fellow species members tend to focus and fear the wrong things. Maybe it is an atavistic and primordial leftover from caveman days where we were part of the food chain and not near the top. Statistically a bear attack is far down the list of probabilities and you can maintain those numbers with simple clean camp and food hanging or bear barrel techniques. Do not let your unrealistic bear anxiety dampen your tour experience.
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Old 06-05-10, 11:01 AM
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Originally Posted by jimmuller View Post
Brown bears, meaning the brown variety of the eastern black bear? Or are you speaking of the grizzly?
Grizzlies are only one subspecies of the brown bears.
Wikipedia
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Old 06-05-10, 11:06 AM
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You guys need to spend a week in northern Saskatchewan in the spring time. Bears are everywhere.
I cannot remember how many times bears have wandered through my campsite. Sometimes making a mess sometimes not. Even sniffing at the tent.
When I was a boy I remember my dad chasing them out of the camp.
Relax..........
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Old 06-05-10, 11:20 AM
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I have run into a lot of bears in the wild and in most cases I got to check out their behinds as they scooted away... bears that see humans as a source of food are what cause most problems and bears will teach their young that humans are okay and this is really bad..

Have met a few Grizzly bears at distances of about 100 yards and they too don't want to have much to do with us either and if you give them room and back off things tend to work out just fine.

The bears I fear most are wild cubs as they usually come with very protective mothers.

Camping in bear country just requires that you take proper precautions... one of the biggest mistakes is when people eat in their tents or store food there as a wandering bear will see this as a drive through and an easy meal.

When you are in the bush always make noise as bears also hate to be surprised and if given notice you may never know they are there.
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Old 06-05-10, 11:58 AM
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I honestly think a big reason for bears not attaching us when they see us is simply that they are smarter than that. You might read this and think this is a crazy statement to make but it's something I've heard before and it stuck, it just makes sense.

Unlike humans, bears do not have the ability to take themselves to, or call for someone else to take them to a hospital if they get into a fight that ends badly. Even if a bear wins a fight between itself and its prey, be it us, a moose, etc. there is a chance it will come out with an injury that could quickly lead to infection and it not being able to look after itself well enough to survive the next winter.

Now they may not understand infections, but they understand pain. I'm sure they've all stepped or rubbed against something that's bothered a foot, leg, eye, for a couple weeks and would rather not risk attacking something that they've likely never seen before.

Cats on the other-hand, they be crazy.
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Old 06-05-10, 06:47 PM
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Originally Posted by a1rabbit View Post
I honestly think a big reason for bears not attaching us when they see us is simply that they are smarter than that. You might read this and think this is a crazy statement to make but it's something I've heard before and it stuck, it just makes sense.

Cats on the other-hand, they be crazy.
I think you're right ... why bother with attacking a human when there's a river full of fish and a tree full of berries just over there.

Here's a site that talks about what black bears normally eat:
https://www.biology-blog.com/blogs/pe...bears-eat.html


And yes ... the cougars are scary. I've encountered one cougar on a ride, and it made me VERY, VERY nervous.
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Old 06-05-10, 07:09 PM
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Every spring, Bruno comes to visit and eat our bird feed that we put out in the winter. Then, we take in the bird feed and no more Bruno. We have a saying in Northern Michigan, and it's probably the same elsewhere, "every swamp has its bear." We've got lots of them up here.

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