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Evolution in the Works: Hunters Are Changing the Way Brown Bears Treat Their Offspring

Hunting laws cause the Scandinavian brown bear to develop new protective methods. Statistics show that these bears are spending more time with there mothers and they’re doing it for a good reason too. This change in behavior shows how evolution works.

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Bears are hanging with their moms more than ever before.

Within the last few decades, scientists noticed that the cubs of brown Scandinavian bears are hanging around their mothers longer than they used to. Apparently, their change in behavior is due to the fact that they’re constantly being hunted.

A recent study on these Scandinavian brown bears shows that they are changing their behaviors around the behavior of hunters. Now the bears are living with their mothers for a larger percentage of their life out of fear of hunters. Before scientists realized this change in behavior, bear cubs only spent a maximum of one year and a half with their mothers. Bear experts say that its highly rare for a baby bear to stay with its mother for any longer. Now, baby bears hang around the mama bear for an extra year. The change in their behavior started around 15- 20 years ago. It seems as if this new behavior evolved as a form of protection.

Hunter scare mother bears

The number of female bears caring for their cubs for this extra year increased by 30% since the year 2005. Statistics show that female bears are four times more likely to be shot and hunted if they do not have a cub by their side. This may be because people feel bad hunting a mother bear as she nurses her cubs to life. However, it’s also a result of the fact that countries that allow bear hunting forbid hunters from killing and targeting family groups.

This hunting behavior drove mother bears to spend more time with their cubs. In some strange way, they understood that surrounding their offspring leads them to live a longer life. From the year 2005 to the year 2015, the number of bears keeping their cubs nearby for this extra year increased from 7% – to 36%. That’s a dramatic increase! The interesting fact is that this increase occurred around the same time that hunting increased in Sweeden. From 2010 to 2014 300 bears were shot each year. The correlation between hunting and mothers staying with their cubs for an extra 365 days makes it seem as if one triggered the other. It makes more sense to believe the hunting is was caused bear families to stay together for longer periods of time.

Pros and Cons of this new bear trend

The new bear behavior leaves cubs with an extra year of protection in the wild. However, an extra year of protection may cause a problem.

Female bears that keep their cubs around longer end up producing less often. With females having cubs less often, the number of bears they produce in their lifetime decreases. This leaves the world with a much smaller bear population.

The research also shows, however, that female bears that watch their cubs for two and a half years actually end up living longer. So perhaps if they live longer, they’ll be able to have the same amount of bear cubs they would if they were watching their cubs for 1 and a half years after all. Either way, the consequences are unclear.

The Scandinavian brown bear is one of the most recorded and tracked animal populations in the world. Scientists began strictly tracking them since the year 1984. Over 500 Scandinavian brown bears have been tracked from the day they were born to the day they died. Hopefully, all the data on these bears will help find a solution to the possible decrease in their population.