Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Further Thoughts On Food Conditioning

Tackling the subject of habituation vs. food conditioning on a blog like this is enormously difficult simply due to the scope of the issue. It would take several books and a bibliography of references the size of a book to present readers with enough information to analyze the data on their own. After doing more research, I have to concede that whether or not food conditioning will create a dangerous bear depends greatly on the bear itself.

Because they are so remarkably intelligent (equal to primates and dolphins), bears develop individual personalities that are formed by their experiences, much like people. While some can be peaceful and even friendly, some can be vicious, nasty, and destructive. In Beauty Within the Beast, a story is told of a female black bear who was fed by an elderly couple living in a cabin in Alaska. As a result, she became a bully and often forced her way into the cabin to get any treats she could find. Despite her tendency to intimidate the couple into letting her do whatever she wanted, she never attacked or injured them, not even when they proceeded to beat her with a frying pan. With her aggressive bullying, however, it's possible that she would have become dangerous. On the opposite end, Summers With The Bears tells the story of another elderly couple in Minnesota who befriended - and often hand-fed - several black bears over the course of six years. The animals never became dangerous, never damaged their home or property, and disappeared whenever strangers dropped by for a visit. In fact, one of the bears was strongly protective of the couple, at one point actually defending them from a strange bear that wandered into their yard with seemingly unfriendly intentions.

If you have the time, an excellent research paper on this subject by Lynn Rogers can be found at

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