The life of bears is very much misunderstood, as is their association with humans. As bears have been forced out of their natural habitat they have been forced into more contact with humans than is good for either species, so it is important that one species has more understanding of the other. Since bears cannot read, it is up to humans to educate themselves about a species of animal that has no animosity towards them unless they are very hungry or if they come between them and their children.

Bears are a relatively intelligent species with well-developed brains. They are fast and strong with a highly developed sense of smell, and are also very resourceful and protective of their families. Their natural diet in the wild is omnivorous, and they will eat eggs, carrion, insects and small mammals such as mice, rats and voles. They will also eat fish, as most of us are aware having watched them on film catching salmon swimming and jumping upriver to spawn. They also eat grasses, roots, berries, nuts and honey.

However, species such as polar bears that live in areas devoid of vegetation have evolved into a largely carnivorous species with excellent swimming abilities needed to catch their primary food source – seals. It is also an expert stalker, without, for obvious reasons, the tree-climbing abilities of most of its cousins. Nevertheless, it is still a bear, as is the spectacled bear, the grizzly and the cute vegetarian panda (which has been proved a bear).

Just like humans, baby bears are born naked, blind and helpless, and are completely dependent on their mothers for sustenance and warmth. The mother will have between one and three in a litter, and will look after her cubs for 2 -3 years before she has another litter after which she will drive her previous children away to tend for themselves. However, during the first three years, you will not find a better and more attentive mother, and woe betides anybody that gets between her and her cubs. Just like human mothers, that is part of the life of bears.

The tales of angry bears killing humans are generally true only when the human has been threatening the cubs. Such attacks can also occur when humans get too close to the bear community and are attacked by male bears trying to exert their authority. Most people have no understanding of bear society, but tend to look on them as they would humans, anthropomorphizing them and applying human laws on wild animals. Bears to not commit murder – only humans do.

There have been several notable examples of humans being killed by bears when they have encroached on bear territory and believed that the bears ‘liked’ and ‘got along’ with them, but if they are accepted too much by the bears, then humans will be challenged in the same way as other bears are. In fact, bears generally only attack humans to protect their children or if they are attacked themselves. They can also attack if very hungry, their hunger generally caused by humans destroying their natural habitat or taking their food for themselves.

Bears also play a lot, and this applies to all types of bears: brown bears, black bears, polar bears and panda bears. Play is an important part of their development, and is how they learn to catch their prey – just as cats learn to hunt. There are several types of play in respect of bears, including playing with members of other species.

Part of this play is a bear play fighting, and you can tell the difference in that in a real aggressive situation, the hairs on a bear’s neck and shoulders will become erect. People claim to have been attacked by small bears, though it is more likely that it was a baby or adolescent bear trying to play with them. A real bear attack will give a human no chance of survival unless suitably armed.

Grizzly bears and black bears look more dangerous than smaller brown bears, and nobody would believe that a wild giant panda could attack and kill them because it looks so cuddly. However it will, under the same circumstances that a brown bear or grizzly will attack, and people have been killed by pandas just as by other bear species.

The life of bears is misunderstood, particularly in those areas of the USA and Asia where they are most found. They raid trash cans and will even break into houses if they are hungry, just as people do, and will protect their families, just as people do.

Is it the bear’s fault? That is a matter of opinion, but bears are not like people – they have no malice, and do not knowingly commit murder. However, just as humans will, they will protect their family, their territory and their home, and will not think twice about using lethal force to do so – just like most humans!

The life of bears is like that humans in many respects, even to the extend of standing on two feet, and is one reason why they are not only misunderstood but that human values are placed upon them with tragic consequences. Many bear species are now extinct, and others, like the grizzly, are well on their way. Just for acting like people do!

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