With the recent release of The Jungle Book, it’s no wonder everyone has bears on the brain! Loveable Papa-bear Baloo is the epitome of a fun, cuddly, musically-inclined teddy. Other famous bears include Smokey, Yogi, Boo-boo, Paddington, and Winnie-the-Pooh. We give our kiddos stuffed teddies to cuddle, we put bears in our books and movies, and we use adorable bears to sell things like toilet paper and honey. But the real thing? What are real bears like compared to their imaginary counterparts?
This here is a bear who makes reality look an awful lot like fiction! The passenger in the car gives him a little wave and a friendly “bye!” and, well, Mr. Bear waves right back! He looks like he’d fit in at a British tea party with that dainty wave! How he picked up this human social cue, we can’t be sure. Maybe he retired from a life of entertainment, or maybe he’s just a keen observer. Either way, in a small way he bridges a communication gap between people and bears. If he can understand a wave, what else might he understand? It almost makes you want to ask him out for a cup of coffee so that you can talk it over!
Don’t get too friendly, though. While gestures like his wave and characters like Baloo make bears seem “just like us,” they’re still wild animals who might hurt you if they feel threatened. This fuzzy Grizzly guy might weight in at three hundred to seven hundred pounds. While this clip makes him look small and cute, if you were to stand next to him you would be staring up at a six to seven foot tall hulk!
In the 1990s, biologists estimated that there were an average of three people killed a year by bears. 2015 saw three bear attacks in Yellowstone Park. For some perspective, that’s compared to fifteen people on average killed annually by dogs. These rates of bears attacks rise when humans encroach into bear territory, though. They aren’t unprompted attacks; the bear had a reason to feel threatened and was defending itself.
To avoid bear attacks, it’s important to keep your distance, to elevate food off the ground, and to invest in bear spray. Never sneak up on a bear, either. The majority of attacks happen when hunters are out in blinds dressed in camouflage. It’s not their intent to startle the bear; both parties are surprised, and unfortunately sometimes bears’ surprise manifests in aggression. Overall, bears are peaceful unless threatened. This is especially true if they feel their young are in danger. Really, they’re kind, beautiful creatures that deserve to be respected.
It used to be that Grizzly bears were found everywhere from Alaska to Mexico and as far east as the Hudson Bay. Now, because of human development and eradication, they’re only found in Alaska, in western Canada, some of the northwest United States, Yellowstone Park, and Grand Teton National Park.
Thankfully, Grizzly bears still occupy ninety-percent of their native territory in British Columbia, Canada. This doesn’t mean there are still as many Grizzlies as when European settlers came to British Columbia, however. There used to be 25,000 Grizzlies, and now it’s estimated as of 2012 that there are 15,075. It’s important to recognize what an important aspect of the natural landscape and the history of this continent these bears are. They aren’t visitors; we are.
If you’re out and about and you see a bear like this woman did – with a fence and the safety of a car between you – feel free to wave! Bears are intelligent animals. Their main concerns are hunting for fish, protecting their young, and occasionally greeting tourists!