Researchers have long wonder whether problematic bears are bad by nature, or if they’re simply exhibiting learned behavior. While they have yet to find proof of any genetic predisposition to breaking into homes and cars or raiding garbage cans, several studies have found that parent bears teach these bad behaviors to their cubs.
What’s even more alarming, once bears stop being afraid of humans, wildlife officials are usually forced to kill them to prevent them from attacking people. And the black bear population suffers.
While the issues is far from being a new one, it’s been having a strong presence in the press these past few days, after news broke that Nevada wildlife officials have euthanized yet another cub from the same mother bear, a 19 year old known as Green 108. It’s the third from the same litter.
Green 108 has a long history of bad behavior, and experts from Lake Tahoe say that she will continue to pass it to her cubs, be it through genes, or education, and the young bears will have no choice but to repeat her mistakes. The only way to stop this from happening is to make sure that the bear population of from Lake Tahoe can’t get access to human garbage.
Carl Lackey, wildlife biologist with the Nevada Department of Wildlife, offered a statement describing Green 108 as “kind of a chronic, nuisance-type bear. She’s always been getting into trash, always been in the same area. We’ve captured several litters of hers. We’ve captured her several times”.
Back in 2008 Lackey co-authored a study which concluded that “genetics alone could not explain a nuisance behavior in black bears”. However parent bears still play a role in how their cubs behave.
This idea was first brought into the attention of researchers all the way back in 1989, when a team of researchers with the National Park Service proposed that the grizzly bears living in Yellowstone get their bad behaviors from their mothers. The questioned whether the cubs inherit the bad behaviors genetically or whether they learn them remained opened.
But since then, another study from 2008, conducted by Victoria Seher and Rachel Mazur, a research duo from the Yosemite Division of Resources Management, has offered proof that parent bears teach their young cubs to search for food in environments where humans live.
One remarkable note reads that the two researchers have “observed sows pushing cubs into buildings and vehicles to retrieve food rewards”.
And Lackey himself noticed that once a Tahoe bear is captured by wildlife officials, then released, the animal will start to recognize bear traps and avoid them.
Image Source: pixabay.com