Bear families in Sweden are behaving differently, and researchers believe it’s a result of new hunting laws.
It has been observed that mothers and their cubs are staying together longer than in recent studies. One theory is that new laws in Sweden, which forbid the hunting of bear families (mothers with cubs), have resulted in the bears remaining close to each other for protection.
Previously, it was estimated that brown bear cubs remained under the protection and guidance of their mothers for approximately 18 months (in studies taken 20 years ago), which has increased to 2.5 years today.
Jon Swenson, Norwegian University of Life Sciences professor and leading researcher in the new study is fascinated with the findings. “Man is now an evolutionary force in the lives of the bears,” he said, adding; “A single female in Sweden is four times more likely to be shot as one with a cub.”
After Sweden banned the hunting of bears with cubs, Swenson and an extended team from Sherbrooke University in Canada and the University of Southeast Norway, examined data and statistics dating back several decades. They discovered the trend to be in direct correlation with the changes in hunting laws.
“This is especially true in areas of high hunting pressure,” said Mr Swenson. “There, the females that keep the cubs the extra year have the greatest advantage.”
Brown bears are quite plentiful in Sweden and are a popular animal for tourists to seek out. They tend to be shy and reclusive, with people rarely seeing them, even ones who live in areas which have a large bear population.
While they may look cute, the public are warned to keep their distance from bears which they may spot in the woods, especially ones with cubs.
This isn’t the first time that animals have learnt to adapt to new environmental changes or threats which have been imposed by humans. We recently wrote about how mountain gorillas in Rwanda have been dismantling hunters’ traps, after witnessing a member of their group being killed by one.