Are you smarter than the average bear?

Post by Jordan Stoner

My interest in human-wildlife interactions has increased over the past few years. I live in a large city that is continually growing. This has led to the increased conflict between humans and wildlife. For this reason, I have wanted to gain an understanding on how conflict happens and why interactions are increasing. This is what has motivated me to research more into bear conflicts.

The ultimate goal of my research is to help express why human-black bear interactions are increasing in Aurora, Colorado. Black bears are not known to be an aggressive species. However, many interactions have been dangerous and deadly. The need for black bears to forage for hibernation is key for their survival. Yet, the decrease of their natural resources has caused them to find easy access to human food resources nearby. It needs to be understood however, that the bears are not wandering in the want or need to harm humans. This is why it is important to gain an understanding of black bear behaviors. Further, gaining an understanding of what can be done to decrease dangerous conflict.

A black bear in a dumpster seeking out human food (from Colorado Parks and Wildlife website). This image shows how bears have easy access to human food and are willing to “dumpster dive” to get the resources needed for their survival.
A black bear in a dumpster seeking out human food (from Colorado Parks and Wildlife website). This image shows how bears have easy access to human food and are willing to “dumpster dive” to get the resources needed for their survival.

This topic has become of greater interest to me for the sole reason that I have personally experienced conflict with wildlife. When I was younger, there was a female fox who had built her den under my house. It was a scary situation since we had dogs. Also, the fox was very alert and aggressive due to her being pregnant. Every time I went outside and let my dogs out, I was scared that she would attack. My parents had no idea what to do in this situation and it made it difficult to deal with this conflict. They did not want to harm the fox but having her in our backyard was very dangerous. This is why I am here to emphasize the importance of education of wildlife, and more importantly black bears. If I thought a fox was scary, I couldn’t imagine crossing paths with a black bear.

Furthermore, research from scientific journals have proven the positive impact education could have on bear conflicts. This is why I have come up with the idea of implementing an education program in my local community. My target audience is people in my local neighborhood that live near the Smoky Hill Library in Centennial, Colorado. Information on bear proofing mechanisms and how to deal with conflict will be presented. This information should give insight into decreasing the frequency of future conflict. For this reason, I hope that local citizens will take the time to further their research and understanding of bear behavior and bear proofing mechanisms.


Dana Starken is an undergraduate in the Department of Zoology and Physiology at the University of Wyoming.

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