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Brown bears Ursus arctos were historically persecuted and almost eradicated from southern Europe in the twentieth century as a result of hunting and direct persecution. The effects of human-induced mortality were exacerbated by other threats, such as habitat loss and fragmentation, due to the expansion of human populations. As a result, nowadays there are only small fragmented populations of bears in southern Europe. Brown bears in the Cantabrian (north-western Spain), Apennine (central Italy), and Pindos (north-western Greece) mountains represent three examples of small and threatened bear populations in human-modified landscapes. Most of their range is characterized by high human densities, widespread agricultural activities, livestock raising and urban development, connected by dense networks of transport infrastructures. This has resulted in a reduction of continuous habitat suitable for the species. Here, we summarize the past and present histories and fates of these three populations as examples on how the coexistence of bears and people in human-modified landscapes can take different turns depending on human attitudes.
The media and scientific literature are increasingly reporting an escalation of large carnivore attacks on humans, mainly in the so-called developed countries, such as Europe and North America. Although large carnivore populations have generally increased in developed countries, increased numbers are not solely responsible for the observed rise in the number of attacks. Of the eight bear species inhabiting the world, two (i.e. the Andean bear and the giant panda) have never been reported to attack humans, whereas the other six species have: sun bears Helarctos malayanus, sloth bears Melursus ursinus, Asiatic black bears Ursus thibetanus, American black bears Ursus americanus, brown bears Ursus arctos, and polar bears Ursus maritimus. This chapter provides insights into the causes, and as a result the prevention, of bear attacks on people. Prevention and information that can encourage appropriate human behavior when sharing the landscape with bears are of paramount importance to reduce both potentially fatal human–bear encounters and their consequences to bear conservation.
This chapter comprises the following sections: names, taxonomy, subspecies and distribution, descriptive notes, habitat, movements and home range, activity patterns, feeding ecology, reproduction and growth, behavior, parasites and diseases, status in the wild, and status in captivity.
Bears have fascinated people since ancient times. The relationship between bears and humans dates back tens of thousands of years, during which time we have also competed with bears for shelter and food. Our strong link with bears is also attested to by the Neanderthal burial of “Le Regourdou,” in France, where the skeleton of a Neanderthal in a fetal position was found under a funeral slab surrounded by the bones of a brown bear, probably sacrificed for the burial. Bears were also represented in rock paintings in caves inhabited by our ancestors in Europe. The bears depicted by our ancestors were cave bears, which roamed Eurasia until about 24,000 years ago when they became extinct during the Last Glacial Maximum. Recently, gene flow between extinct cave bears and brown bears has been discovered, providing direct evidence for ancestral hybridization between the two species which resulted in the modern Ursus arctos that we all know (Chapter 1).
Bears have fascinated people since ancient times. The relationship between bears and humans dates back thousands of years, during which time we have also competed with bears for shelter and food. In modern times, bears have come under pressure through encroachment on their habitats, climate change, and illegal trade in their body parts, including the Asian bear bile market. The IUCN lists six bears as vulnerable or endangered, and even the least concern species, such as the brown bear, are at risk of extirpation in certain countries. The poaching and international trade of these most threatened populations are prohibited, but still ongoing. Covering all bears species worldwide, this beautifully illustrated volume brings together the contributions of 200 international bear experts on the ecology, conservation status, and management of the Ursidae family. It reveals the fascinating long history of interactions between humans and bears and the threats affecting these charismatic species.