Grizzly bears that live near humans are 7.5 TIMES more likely to die young than those in the wild, with only one in 30 reaching the age of 14
- An investigation followed 2,669 grizzly bears in British Columbia between 1979 and 2019
- Grizzly bears that lived near cities were more likely to die young
- Only one in 30 grizzly bears would reach middle age if they lived near cities
Bear populations have grown across North America, bringing them into closer and more regular contact with humans every year.
That trend endangers bears far more than humans, according to a new University of Alberta study led by Clayton Lamb.
Lamb and colleagues followed 2,669 grizzly bears in British Columbia between 1979 and 2019 and found that the mortality rate for bears living near humans was 7.5 times higher than those living in the wild.
A new study found that bears that lived close to cities had a mortality rate 7.5 times higher than those further afield
According to the team, only one in 30 grizzly bears living in areas of high human contact would be 14 years old, roughly middle-aged for bears.
In wild areas with less frequent human contact, 26 out of 30 bears reached the age of 14, according to a report in Inverse.
The main threats to bears came directly from humans, especially those who hunted the animals for sports or as a preventative safety measure to protect livestock.
Bears were also threatened by human infrastructure, such as train tracks and busy highways – in British Columbia alone, there are 10,000 wild animal collisions each year.
According to Lamb and his team, the bears have gradually started adapting to these new threats by engaging in more nighttime activities, presumably to avoid encounters with humans.
Researchers found that bears that lived in areas of higher human populations gradually showed more nocturnal behavior to avoid direct contact as much as possible
In areas with less direct human contact, 26 out of 30 bears would be at least 14 years old, while in areas with more frequent human contact, only one in 30 would reach 14
They found that after three years, bears in areas with a significant human population added 3% more nocturnal activity each year.
According to Lamb, some simple lifestyle changes could have a significant impact on both human and bear safety.
Farmers and farmers can use electric fences to protect crops and livestock, while highway barriers can be extended to keep bears out of traffic.
Some areas in British Columbia have already managed to reduce bear traffic collisions by as much as 80% by crossing wildlife – the grassy equivalent of a pedestrian bridge.
“We can make changes to promote living together in these shared landscapes, or if we choose not to adapt to sharing the landscape,” said Lamb, “we will likely continue to encounter the frustrations of conflicts with carnivores. . ”