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Animal Attacks Could Decrease By Half With Human Education

Feb 07, 2016 05:58 PM EST
Brown Bear
A brown bear pictured in the Cantabrian Mountains, Spain.
(Photo : Vincenzo Penteriani)

A new study from the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC) suggests that half of large carnivore attacks are highly avoidable, resulting from a lack of human knowledge.

"To go running when it is dark, leaving children unattended in carnivore zones, approaching a female with young, approaching wounded animal in hunting and walking with an unleashed dog along the said areas, are the main causes of the attacks," Vincenzo Pentariani, one of the study researchers from the Doñana Biological Station, said in a news release.

Large carnivore populations are threatened throughout the world by habitat loss, over-hunting, and loss of prey. In some areas, re-introduction of such wild animals is often successful. However, the success is dependent on maintaining a low level of conflict with humans.

According to the study, after decades of minimal interaction with large carnivores like bears, coyotes, leopards and wolves, humans living in many developed countries and involved in outdoor activities are lacking in knowledge about how to behave when in close quarters with wild animals. 

"For this reason, the attacks can decrease a lot if we learn how to act when we are in nature. It is not to limit the access to public in large carnivore's areas or, as we made in the past, pursuing them, it is to coexist with them. We can't go out into the countryside as we go to the shopping center," Pentariani added in the CSIC's release

Therefore the authors of the study recommend people be informed and educated on the risks of associating with large carnivores in their habitats. Some of the basic rules they suggest following include avoiding being out alone in these areas at night, to not leave children unattended, and to avoid approaching these wild animals.

In many cases, an animal attacks because it feels their young are being threatened, so it is an act of defense rather than aggression. In Spain, for example, 38 attacks of brown bears in Cantabrian Mountains have been reported in the last 40 years, none of which were the result of abusive or corrupt behavior on the animals' part, researchers say. 

"All the cases can be attributed to a defensive behavior as an answer for approaching a female with young and other stress factors, like walking with an unleashed dog or that the bear were previously hurt, could cause a defensive answer," Penteriani concluded.

Their findings were recently published in the journal Scientific Reports

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