Female bears find human settlements ideal to protect cubs
Bear cubs are at a high risk of losing their life to infanticidal male bears who may want to impregnate a female who has just borne cubs. To protect the cubs, female bears in Scandinavia seem to have found a unique way. Swedish researchers from the Norwegian University of Life Sciences found the presence of female grizzly bears and cubs near human settlements and they wanted to find out whether this was a way of shielding the cubs from the male counterparts. Thus, they tracked 30 mother brown bears in south-central Sweden from 2005 to 2012 using the GPS tracking system. Examining the behavior of these bears, they found that the female bears whose cubs successfully avoided an encounter with male bears had made the areas around human settlements their habitat. This indicates that they were using humans as a shield against infanticidal male bears. According to Marcus Elfström, a wildlife ecologist at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences in Ås, vulnerable bears fear dominant bears more than they fear people. Therefore, they prefer living in human territories rather than their natural habitat. However, further studies are required to understand whether cubs sheltered by human settlements become more habituated to humans and they are likely to be at a higher risk of indulging in conflict with humans.
Read more in Science.