Swedish bears outwit hunters by adapting to law

Swedish brown bear mothers outwit hunters by adapting to law

Perhaps Swedish bears are smarter than the average bear. After Sweden passed a law banning protecting mother bears with cubs from hunters, the female bears learned to keep their cubs around an extra year.

The finding, published on March 27 in the journal Nature Communications, was the work of an international team of scientists who spent 22 years studying more than 500 bears over the course of their lives.

In the past, the mother bears kept their cubs with them an average of 18 months. Since 2005, the percentage of mother bears keeping their cubs an extra year has grown from 7 percent to 36 percent.

“As long as a female has cubs, she is safe,” the researchers wrote. This hunting pressure has resulted in a change in the proportion of females that keep their cubs for 1.5 years in relation to those that keep them for 2.5 years.”

Bear management has been a great success story in Sweden, even without the aid of the mother bears. From a low of about 130 brown bears in the 1930s, the population has grown to nearly 3,000.

About the author

David Backes

I have always been drawn to where the wild things are: the natural world around me, and the wilderness within. As a writer, speaker, and university professor, I have for decades focused on this combination of nature and the human spirit. In recent years, my spiritual journey has added another lens: social, environmental and intergenerational justice. Put it all together and you’ve got The Earth Keeper, a blog of integral ecology and the prophetic imagination. The Earth Keeper may at times make you feel hopeful or inspired; it may make you feel uncomfortable or defensive or even angry. I hope it often will be challenging, and always interesting.

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