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Getting Close to Bears

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In Minnesota's wild north woods, six city slickers are on a hunt. Well... let's see if we can find this bear. If all goes well, they'll be face to face with wild black bears within the hour. A close encounter with wild bears may seem downright dangerous to some but to Lynn Rodgers, the founder and executive director of the North American Bear Center, it's not only safe, but the best way to learn about bears and their habits. What we are finding is that bears are not the ferocious animals we once thought. [observer laughing] You're a pretty good bear, aren't you? For the last four decades, Rodgers, who's known as "the bear man", has been walking with wild black bears, learning first-hand what they eat, how they communicate, and how they interact with people. At around 900,000, the black bear population is at its highest point in a century. And bear-human interactions are on the rise. Rodgers wants the public to learn that bears are not to be feared, despite their aggressive reputation. Well, they can go through the whole hibernation and come out still strong... For the last five years, he's been hosting intensive bear education camps. Over four days, participants learn everything -- from bear biology, to bear habits, and even bear language. Look at those. Eat you guy. Let's see how far I can turn it down, and still hear it. Rodgers tracks the wild bears by catching signals from collars that bears wear. Yeah, he's close. He calls this bear "June" Rodgers has followed her since she was a yearling. She trusts Rodgers enough to allow him and the group to approach. Hi. Her cubs wait in a nearby tree. OK, I wanna take your heart rate. OK? Rodgers uses no tranquilizers, because they could harm both the bears and his data. Instead, he relies on his experience, a handful of treats, and good bear manners. Take those, and in exchange for those... in exchange for those, let me check your heart rate. The group watches as he takes June's pulse... Thirty-five times two is seventy. Heart rate is seventy. ...and fits her for a new collar. Here. OK. You're doing OK. You're doing OK. Let me just see if this WILL go on. And it will. Later, when he's finished, June softly calls to her cubs, they climb out of the tree, and follow her to nurse. Rodgers's research shows that bears react to humans mostly out of fear, not aggression. And he believes humans' fear of bear attack is greatly overblown. About one out of a million black bears kill somebody. For people, it's one out of 18,000 kill somebody in North America. It doesn't seem like it, but Rodgers says that this bear is actually afraid. She doesn't attack. Instead, she makes a blustery bluff charge, and swipes at the camera. Well, that was worth it. The reason for this behavior lies in the black bear's genes. For thousands of years they were hunted by large fearsome predators. These animals are now extinct. But genetically, black bears are still prey items, and they act like it. Rodgers advises that people avoid direct contact with wild bears. But, if interactions do occur, the old adage is probably true. "They are more scared of you then you are of them."

Video Details

Duration: 5 minutes and 8 seconds
Country: United States
Language: English
Producer: National Geographic
Director: National Geographic
Views: 106
Posted by: greenbo on Apr 30, 2011

Can people really become close friends with bear?

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