Mama Bears Are Using Humans To Protect Their Cubs


People will tell you nature is beautiful, and it’s true. But nature is also often terrible, for reasons that are too depressing to get into in this opening paragraph. Suffice to say, though, brown bears will do anything to protect their cubs, including, a new study by Scandanavian researchers claims, moving closer to the humans who might shoot them.

Why? Well, the short answer is brown bear cubs tend to die a lot during bear mating season. Male bears don’t see the cubs as adorable little fuzzballs, but a direct threat to their ability to propagate their genes and something that takes up too much of their mother’s time and energy better spent mating with them. So they try to kill them, and in fact that’s the reason for the majority of cub deaths. Look, we told you it was awful, and it’s not terribly unique, either. It’s called sexually selective infanctide among biologists and it’s seen across hundreds of species, so the next time some animal-rights activist goes off on how the animals have it right, man, drop that little truth bomb on them.

Anyway, as you might have gathered, mama bears will do anything to prevent this, and more and more often, that means moving near humans. And it’s not just because we find bears cute. Humans have displaced bears at the top of the food chain, so mama bears have figured out we’ll shoot the cub-killing bears, making us relatively safe to be near. We say relatively because there’s a chance the mama bear might be the one getting shot, which should give you an idea of just what they’re willing to put at risk to protect their cubs.

Long term, this may well cause problems. Bears and humans don’t tend to mix, and the closer bears are to humans, the more likely the two are to come into conflict. But then again, it’s not hard to see where mama bear is coming from, either.

(Via PopSci)