When Bears get Pesky on Project Sites
When working in the wilderness as an Environmental Monitor you will most likely experience bears on countless occasions. It is important that when you have a bear encounter that you do not encourage behavior that could create nuisance bear behavior.
The term ‘nuisance bear’ means a bear that acts on a learned behavior as a result of human interaction, to an extent where the bear presents a threat to human safety or property when seeking out food in areas that an inhabited by humans.
Did you know that there are types of behavior that are associated with nuisance bears?
- A human-habituated bear
- A human food conditioned bear
The difference in behavior between these two types of nuisance bears comes down to the fact that a human-habituated bear is a bear that tolerates a human presence. Whereas a human food conditioned type of bear is one that seeks out food at human-use sites and continually returns to it as a source for food. The two types differ in the sense that a human-habituated bear doesn’t necessarily have to be human-food conditioned if they have never experience an interaction with a human involves food.
If a bear comes into a human habituated work site, it is important that you avoid any interaction with the bear. If you let the bear know that they are welcome by having food around (open garbage cans for example) then that will create a positive experience for the bear and it will remember to come back to the site for a source of food. This sort of behavior will start to progress to if the bear finds food. Finding food becomes a positive reward to the bear and could lead to it breaking into building or vehicles.
The majority of nuisance bears portray characteristics of being both human-habituated as well as being human food conditioned. Generally nuisance bears tolerate human presence, they seek out food where humans are present and they show little or no fear to humans.
A bear management technique to deal with nuisance bears is aversive conditioning. This means that when you have an encounter with a bear, to help it learn through a negative experience (yelling) rather than a positive experience (finding food). Aversive conditioning teaches bears that they are not welcome in human areas. This can be as simple as yelling and telling the bear to go away. Other techniques that professionals use to repel nuisance bears from human habituated areas include using bear bangers, bean bags, rubber bullets or even dogs to scare the bear away.
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