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‘Some female bears may pick dens near people to maintain threat of males away’

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Some female bears decide to live closer to humans in a bid to maintain themselves and their new-born cubs protected from male bears, a recent study suggests.

Researchers checked out changes within the habitat characteristics of dens utilized by females to offer birth to cubs.

Led by conservation experts at Nottingham Trent University and European partners, they monitored populations of brown bears within the Cantabrian mountain range in northern Spain over 20 years.

The findings suggest the more dominant and experienced females may pre-emptively occupy the most effective locations, with good food resources and at higher altitudes and near to rugged terrain.

Our findings may suggest that some bears used areas nearer to human activity and settlements and this might enable them to segregate from adult male bears, that are known to avoid such areas

Dr Antonio Uzal, Nottingham Trent University

These areas allow them to realize higher fitness and limit the movement of their cubs and the likelihood of encountering other bears or people.

Nevertheless, because the variety of bears increased, some females moved to areas that weren’t pretty much as good, lower within the valleys and closer to sources of human disturbance, corresponding to trails and roads, with shorter distances between neighbouring bears’ breeding areas.

Male bears, which might kill new-born cubs to make females turn into receptive to mating again, are known to avoid areas utilized by people.

Subsequently getting closer to humans would help the mother bears avoid dangerous encounters which could end badly for them or their offspring.

Nevertheless, these habitats aren’t without dangers, and the animals risk running into people and even being hit on the roads.

Dr Antonio Uzal, an authority in wildlife conservation in Nottingham Trent University’s School of Animal, Rural and Environmental Sciences, said: “Restricted habitat availability may promote encounters amongst bears throughout the mating season and this in turn can result in the next prevalence of infanticide events.

“Our findings may suggest that some bears used areas nearer to human activity and settlements and this might enable them to segregate from adult male bears, that are known to avoid such areas.

“The research also supports a well-established theory in ecology that competition for territories ends in probably the most dominant individuals holding the higher-quality areas earlier while the weakest are forced to search out sub-optimal habitats.

“Bears nearing human activity brings obvious challenges too, nevertheless, corresponding to potential encounters with people and the next likelihood of animals being killed on roads.

“Certain areas may additionally should be closed to access at particular points of the 12 months.

“From a conservation perspective our findings are significant, as we are able to discover critical habitats at certain periods within the 12 months and potentially manage activities in these areas.”

The study is published within the journal Mammal Research.

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