Home What Have We Learned that could Apply to Bear Management?
The cubs swimming with Maureen
  Experiences we are having in Russia suggest that it is much more the human variable that affects bear behaviour and determines how safe they are while sharing the same habitat. What follows are our conclusions to date which we hope to further validate as we see our cubs to maturity and continue to live with the resident bears of Kambalnoe Lake.
 Hi! Providing food for bears is in itself not necessarily dangerous, but withholding the food when they are accustomed to it is likely to cause aggressive responses. Therefore we feel the general public must learn to relate to bears other than by feeding them.
  Generally speaking, bears are naturally attracted to people out of curiosity and this has nothing to do with food. We are finding that bears who learn to like people through understanding, develop trust and will not hurt you. It is of profound importance that bears who are sharing the same habitat with people be treated with utmost respect. Rubber bullets, indiscriminate darting and hunting, do not jive with developing trust.
  We are gaining much experience with using electric fence units effectively to keep bears out of human food, garbage and facilities. Our experiment at Kurilskoye Lake Research Station points out that it is also important to not unnecessarily fence off normal movement pathways or restrict important bear activities by over fencing.
  Observation of a great number of bears in many different circumstances seems to clearly demonstrate that hungry bears are cranky bears that can become dangerous. Perhaps during years of extreme food shortages, it may become appropriate to restrict public access into important bear habitat. On these same type of catastrophic food years, when bears are drawn to populated areas, supplementary food could be provided for them. At this time, in contemplating this question, it seems that what is fed is less important than how it is fed.
  The human voice is the most important tool for remaining safe in bear country. We find that yelling and the use of noisemaker are intrusive. Aggressive posturing on the bear's part in close encounters can almost always be diffused by talking calmly to the bear, assuring him that no harm is intended. For the rare occasion where this does not work, red pepper spray is the second best tool although we have never had to use it. Charlie has taught me, Maureen, never to run away or move quickly on close encounters. We have found that although there are more variables with females who have cubs, situations that arise with them can also be safely dealt with.

We both look at bears in the eye, but we are careful what we are thinking. Fear can be interpreted as aggression The right kind of eye contact is an indicator useful for a bear trying to read a person's intentions.

Regarding bear language, most sounds they make on close encounters are sounds of anxiety. We find the human role is to dispel that anxiety with voice and body language. Many people misinterpret a bear's chuffing, chopping noises as aggressive responses.

Our cubs have demonstrated over and over that those noises and actions are how they project their feelings of concern about a situation.

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