Effects on people

Instances of Human Bear Conflict (HBC) have increased for a number of reasons, the principal of these include:

  • A bear cub seeks food near a car
    A bear cub seeks food near a car

    growing human populations that result in habitat loss for wild animals and an increase in use of resources
  • an increase in bears using human resources (such as crops, garbage)
  • a decrease in tolerance for wildlife in communities that have traditionally co-existed with bears
  • periodic food shortages and drought
  • the part climate change is playing in the disruption of the ecosystem structure
  • in rare cases, an increase in bear populations.

A metal bin damaged by a bear
A metal bin damaged by a bear

HBC can affect many aspects of people’s lives:

  • Property
    Bears seeking food may approach homes, campsites, vehicles and areas where food or refuse is left or collected. In the course of accessing the food, bears may damage or destroy property. This has financial implications for property owners in areas where ‘conflict bears’ (or bears assumed to be conflict bears) have been sighted.
  • Livelihoods
    The incomes of communities relying on crops, orchards, livestock or beehives can be devastated by scavenging bears. As these food sources present relatively easy pickings, bears learn to (become habituated to) feed from them, increasing the possible frequency and intensity of conflict situations. Bears can learn to ignore deterrents (such as audio and visual signals) or individual protective measures, which in themselves can be an additional financial burden for farmers.
  • Social interactions
    Fear of bears (either substantiated or perceived) can inhibit people’s movements and change their behavioural patterns, with possible negative economic and social consequences. For example, in rural areas parents may be reluctant to send their children to school if they must travel through an area where a bear attack has been reported.
  • Personal safety
    Bear attacks on humans are very rare but do on occasion occur.

    The vast majority of attacks are defensive. These stem from a fear reaction – bears attack in order to protect themselves or their cubs from perceived harm. This type of attack can be provoked when humans surprise or corner a bear, wound a bear, or approach one too closely to observe, photograph or hunt it. From the bear’s perspective, a defensive attack is then provoked; it will usually end as soon as the threatening situation is resolved.

    Non-defensive predatory attacks are extremely unusual. In these situations, the bear views a human as prey and poses a very serious threat. Brown bears in North America, Asiatic black bears, sloth bears and sun bears have all been implicated in non-defensive attacks on humans.

Read about how HBC affects bears >>