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Research article2015Peer reviewedOpen access

Behavioural Differences between Single Scandinavian Brown Bears (Ursus arctos) and Females with Dependent Young When Experimentally Approached by Humans

Sahlén, Veronica; Ordiz, Andrés; Stoen, Ole-Gunnar; Swenson, Jon E.


Carnivore-human encounters that result in human injury present a conservation and management challenge and it is therefore important to understand under what conditions such incidents occur. Females with cubs are often involved when humans are injured by brown bears Ursus arctos. In Scandinavia, this is particularly true for unarmed recreational forest users. Our aim was to document behavioural differences between single bears and females with cubs in order to develop recommendations to minimize the risk of injuries to recreational forest users. We documented the reactions of GPS-collared females with cubs and single brown bears to experimental approaches by humans to 50 m from the bear on 42 and 108 occasions, respectively. The majority of females with cubs (95%) and single bears (89%) left when approached. Bears that left were passed at shorter distances and were in more open areas than those that stayed. Both groups had similar flight initiation distances, which were longer for bears that were active at the time of the disturbance. Females with cubs selected more open habitat than single bears, also for the new site they selected following disturbance. Females with cubs, particularly active females with cubs of the year, moved greater distances and spent more time active following the approach. Females with cubs and single bears were seen or heard in 26% and 14% of the approaches, respectively. None of the bears displayed any aggressive behaviour during the approaches. Females with cubs selected more open habitat, perhaps predisposing them to encountering people that are not involved in hunting activities, which might be the primary explanation why females with cubs are most frequently involved when unarmed people are injured by bears in Scandinavia. To mitigate injury risks, one must consider factors that bring bears closer to human activity in the first place.

Published in

2015, Volume: 10, number: 4, article number: e0121576
Publisher: Public Library of Science

        SLU Authors

      • Ordiz, Andrés

        • Department of Ecology, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences
        • Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NMBU)
      • UKÄ Subject classification

        Forest Science

        Publication identifier


        Permanent link to this page (URI)