“If you talk to the animals, they will talk to you, and you will know each other. If you do not talk to them, you will not know them, and what you do not know you will fear. What one fears, one destroys.” This was said by Chief Dan George and is common with many wild animals here in North America; one animal in particular, the bear. There are three different types of bears in North America: brown (or grizzly), polar, and black. The most common in the Northern Virginia area are black bears (Palmer & Lickley, 2001).
Though the Native Americans respected and even revered bears, they became a symbol of danger, aggression, violence, and fear for the white man as he moved onto Native American lands. Today, people fear bears because of stories they’ve heard about attacks, movies they’ve watched, or various personal reasons, but here is a different story. Bear attacks are very rare. Over the past one hundred years, fewer than fifty people have died from grizzly bear attacks, and only one hundred and fifty such attacks have been reported as serious (Animal Planet, 2004). Bears do not attack just because they are bears and it’s their nature; in fact, they are not naturally aggressive. Past and current events have affected bears and the way people view them, but bears are not vicious creatures that attack at will. Encounters with bears do not have to be horrible; there are steps a person can take to ensure their own safety and the safety of the bear.
First, why do bears attack? Bears are animals and act instinctively in order to survive. They are omnivores, so they eat both meat and plants, such as berry or flowered plants, rodents, and fish. Bears are social, predictable (if you understand them), curious about their environment, and they don’t have an agenda. They live in a dominance hierarchy and they are not territorial, but they will defend their personal space (Emerald Air Service, 2004). Every bear varies and has a different comfort zone. Some...