Thursday, March 25, 2010

Dr. Lynn Rogers answers my question about the bears he is observing on

... New Lily Fans are asking some of the questions that Lily veterans asked earlier. One person phrased it nicely, saying “Do you have a plan in case Lily were to try to hurt you? She's a wild bear with a baby. What would you do if she were to think Hope was in danger and let instinct overtake conditioning? Do you have a place nearby you could be safe? What would you do?”

Actually, we don’t even think about being attacked. If most of you were here, you would shortly be the same. We know it’s hard to imagine after seeing taxidermy, hunting magazines, and the sensationalized TV programs that are so common. Seeing bears as they really are takes a total mind shift. We interpret their behavior in terms of their fear rather than our fear. Their lives are ruled by fear and food. Large and small, they are basically timid. For research, we try to build trust, not fear. When we walk with them, we are sensitive to their concerns like most of you would naturally be. Each has its own personality. It’s easy to read their limits and when they feel uncomfortable.

To take videos of wild bear behavior, Sue accompanies mothers and cubs far from roads. She is among them with her video camera inches away at times as they forage. The bears mostly ignore us. If they even look at one of us, we wonder why. They are mostly busy working. We feel privileged, not afraid. We show sensitivity to their concerns like most of you would naturally do. For example, whenever Lynn started into Lily’s den today, Lily quickly came over. Each time, Lynn gave her room. He didn’t worry about an attack. He just didn’t want to be in the way.

We don’t consider little “message” bites or slaps to be attacks. They’re communication. We have never had a bear come after us and hurt us. The few misunderstandings we’ve had in the many times we initiated contact have never required professional attention.

We’ve both gone through years of learning to read bears. It would come naturally to most of you. It’s basically a matter of opening our minds to what we are seeing and not being swayed by the sensationalized media.

The latter is what is in most people’s minds. It’s what makes them feel they must carry a gun in the woods. It’s what makes them unwilling to coexist with bears. Most of the scary stories people tell us are not so much about what a bear did but about what the person was afraid the bear would do. In reality, attacks are rare. We should know. We have pushed the envelope for decades and have yet to discover a way to make a bear attack short of attacking it, and then they mostly want nothing more than to escape. 

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