Thursday, 5 April 2018

Stand by me: bears adapt to hunting ban on family groups by keeping cubs longer

Scandinavian study finds bears responding to Swedish law banning hunting of family groups by keeping cubs close for an extra year

Agence France-Presse
Tue 27 Mar 2018 16.56 BSTLast modified on Tue 27 Mar 2018 17.09 BST

Female brown bears have learned to protect themselves from being shot by spending more time caring for their young as they adapt to legislation banning the hunting of mothers with cubs.

The finding, published on Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications, was made by a team of international researchers who spent 22 years studying data on the reproductive strategy and survival of Scandinavian brown bears.

 “Man is now an evolutionary force in the lives of the bears,” said Professor Jon Swenson from the Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NMBU).

In Sweden, Scandinavian brown bears – Ursus arctos – are heavily hunted and anyone can hunt without having a specific licence, but bears in family groups are protected by law.

“A single female in Sweden is four times more likely to be shot as one with a cub,” said Swenson, one of the authors of the study who has spent more than 30 years working with one of the world’s longest-running research projects on bears.

Over the scope of the study, the researchers found that some female bears began to adapt their mothering tactics in order to increase their survival chances – the ursine equivalent of a human shield.

In that time, some mother bears extended the period of care from 18 months to 2.5 years.

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