Reclining Grizzly Bear Photo

grizzly photoA closer photo of Cheetah as she wakes up from her nap.  She has sleepy eyes, and mud on her face from a brief altercation in the creek bed with a curious, young male bear.  Unlike with the male bear, Cheetah had no problem getting very close to us humans.  She had walked right up to us earlier, and then later settled down near us to take a nap in the grass.

Cheetah has spent much of her life around bear viewing tourists and has become comfortable with their presence.  She is quite respectful when approaching people, and will immediately halt and veer away if you tell her “that’s close enough” or “no”.  I’m still trying to figure out how to tell her “don’t come any closer, but don’t run off either!”

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2 Responses to “Reclining Grizzly Bear Photo”

  1. Darcey Griffis Says:

    Isn’t that dangerous for the bear? Maybe the next human won’t be as nice to the bear. Shouldn’t we leave the wild life wild?

    • Good question, does habituation to humans hurt wildlife? In some cases yes (especially with predator species), and this becomes dangerous for the wild animal. For example, if someone feeds javelinas every night in their backyard in Arizona, these wild animals may become used to being around people. They then raid the next door neighbor’s yard for food, and get shot by an angry neighbor who isn’t enamored of wildlife with large teeth. Bears habituated to human garbage in urban areas usually results in the bear getting shot.

      Are bears habituated to humans in Katmai National Park, where hunting is prohibited, dangerous to them? Potentially, especially to males with large home ranges that extend beyond park boundaries. The adjacent Katmai Preserve does allow hunting of grizzly bears, so bears are vulnerable there especially if habituated to bear viewers and photographers. This is why I discourage all bear viewing in the Katmai Preserve, whereas they are protected in Katmai National Park where we spent all of our time. We try to minimize our impact on the grizzly bears while camping in Katmai, and spent most of our time close up with resident females whose home ranges probably do not extend beyond the bays where we camped. I do believe that an increase in bear viewing tourism could hurt the grizzly populations in Katmai, especially the grizzlies who fear humans and could be discouraged from a feeding source due to presence of tourists. However, bear viewing tourism helps protect the grizzlies in the park from poachers. Additionally, when thousands of untrained tourists a year walk safely with wild grizzly bears in Katmai N. Park it helps to change peoples’ perceptions about bears. Most people don’t believe you could safely sit next to a grizzly bear mother unless they’ve actually experienced it themselves. Katmai N. Park is the only place world where people do this regularly. I do worry about the impact though on the grizzly bears.

      Brooks Falls does pretty extensive data collection on the grizzlies that visit that area of the park, where most tourists visit. Grizzly numbers were increasing yearly at the falls when I was there in 2006. They also close the falls to tourists at night so there is a period of time where bears who may fear humans can fish. There are responsible ways to conduct any type of wildlife viewing. The National Park at Brooks Falls does an excellent job, and this is in part because they give bears priority. Private bear viewing operators are not always ethical however, and I’ve witnessed a lot of behavior that I don’t think is good for the bears by bear viewing groups. Good question, huge topic…will try and write more about it.

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