Understanding the behavior of bears is an essential part of creating safe environments for both people and bears. Bears often interpret the terms in vocalizations and postures to understand what other bears fear. However, people frequently misinterpret bear behavior, which can lead to misunderstandings.

You can learn more about how bears behave and encounter less negative interactions by understanding that bear behavior can be predictable.

If you learn more about bears, you will be able to appropriately react when you encounter them and see their negative behavior. Bears are usually more predictable than people.

Unless they are forced to, bears are usually not inclined to be around humans, preferring to be near a source of food. Bears are typically shy and retiring animals that have very little desire to interact with humans. They are not malicious or mean. Bears are not ferocious.

The size of the critical space is different for each bear and situation. Bears, similar to humans and other animals, possess a “critical space” – a region surrounding them that they are capable of defending. Once you intrude upon a bear’s critical space, you have compelled the bear to react – either by fleeing or displaying aggression.

Grizzly bears and black bears share some common traits, but they react differently to perceived threats and understand the importance of reacting in different ways. Each species has evolved different survival strategies. Black bears are usually more tolerant and less aggressive towards people. Grizzly bears, on the other hand, often prefer to stay away from heavily populated or heavily used areas and are often found living near human settlements.

Black bears are excellent climbers. When a black bear is threatened or perceives a threat, he usually runs up a tree. Female black bears don’t have vigorous defenses to protect their cubs from the perceived threat. Although black bears tend to retreat from people, they are still incredibly strong animals that can cause injuries.

Threats can be perceived as very aggressive towards people and other bears, especially when it comes to sows with cubs. However, the first line of defense for a black bear is to retreat. In instances where they feel threatened, grizzly bears (or brown bears) are more likely to defend themselves, influenced by their behavioral response to perceived threats. They have evolved to live in treeless habitats, such as forests, mountains, or coastal areas.

A female black bear will force them to climb a tree, whereas a mother grizzly will typically protect her cubs on the ground with aggression. It is worth noting that while grizzlies are not proficient climbers, they are capable of climbing trees.

Curiosity, not aggression, is a sign of intelligence. Standing on its hind legs allows a bear to gather more information from its senses of hearing, sight, and smell. Bears are very curious and will inspect objects, noises, and odors to determine if they are playable or edible.

Bears are typically active from sunrise to sunset, although they can be seen at any time of day or night. In order to avoid human contact, bears in many areas with high human activity have adapted to being nocturnal. Some bears have become accustomed to humans in order to access their abundant supply of improperly stored garbage and other enticing sources of food.

Bears can be very social animals, unlike people who simply don’t tolerate one another in their respective homes. Social exchanges consist of complex meetings and relationships with familiar individuals, usually within a specific region. The strength in numbers is likely because bears even form friendships and alliances, known to mentor unrelated younger subadults. Some adult bears have been known to even hang around in pairs or groups, and they can exist in very close proximity to one another. While it is incorrect to describe bears as “asocial” like lions, chimps, or wolves, they can be very social animals.

The foundation for social behavior in bears is the mutual use of resources and land. Bears, like people, share home ranges. Bears are not territorial like primates and wolves. Being territorial means keeping members of other species away from a given area. Bears are not territorial.

People, similar to their interaction with other bears, habituate to bears. This allows them to tolerate close distances with each other, as bears have evolved behavior that allows them to be localized in areas with abundant food resources, such as a mountainside with berries or a stream with salmon. This behavior is transferred to their relationship with humans. If bears are not harassed or shot, they habituate to humans in the same way they do with other people.

Age, dimensions, and disposition serve as the foundation of the dominance structure within bear communities. Fully-grown males occupy the highest position in this hierarchy, while sub-adults and cubs are situated at the lowest level. Bears establish and preserve their social status and position in the hierarchy by displaying aggression or engaging in posturing. Within their respective groups, solitary females and subadults have a less rigid hierarchy but generally demonstrate submissive behavior towards mature males.

One should not be considered or behave aggressively, nor should this be alarming. Bears will often investigate what alarms them, and their initial fear will be followed by a peculiar reaction. Behaviourists often refer to this as a strange response. Bears are frequently frightened by new situations or objects in their environment, causing them to react to unfamiliar things.

A bear can literally stumble upon an unsuspecting individual. The loud sounds of wind blowing or rushing water may distract them from hearing or identifying the source of delicious food. Bears, especially adult brown bears, are not always aware of what is happening around them. They do not always pay attention to the trail ahead or the presence of other beings.

(C) Living in Harmony with Bears by Derek Stonorov, released by the National Audubon Society in 2000.