Bears should be given more respect as predators

It is often suggested that bears are merely opportunistic when it comes to meat eating. The suggestion is that bears are vegetarians who are capable of scavenging from dead animals.

Now, of course we need to be careful as bears have a wide range of intelligences. Brown bears have an intelligence on par with chimpanzees, where as black bears are far less bright (though they are still one of the brightest animals).

Elk in an open field Marie and Alistair Knock

However, a recent study in Sweden showed that far from being opportunistic, bears change their habits to make sure these opportunities are available.

After waking from hibernation, bears will often move where they are living to allow hunting of the young of the forest. One of the bears studied, killed 38 newborn reindeer in one month and 18 moose calves the next.

This was a clear strategy as reindeer with young are found at higher elevations. As the reindeer calving ended, the bears moved to areas of deciduous forests and old clear cuts – areas favoured by moose with young.

This shows a significant amount of planning and forethought.

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