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Behavior of Scandinavian brown bears when encountered by dogs and humans

By Stine Emilie Noding Hansen

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The Scandinavian brown bear population was persecuted in the last half of the 1800s and almost went extinct. They got protected in Sweden in 1927 and in Norway in 1973, and have since reached a level that can be hunted. The bears choose areas with as little human activity as possible, but dangerous situations may occur especially during hunting. There have been 32 incidents of bear attacks on humans since 1977, and it is mainly hunters that have been injured by bears. Many of these situations involved hunting where a dog was chasing and/or baying the bear. This has made the public question if it is dangerous to bring dogs with when hiking. In this study I have tried to answer this question and my hypothesis was that bears will have a different reaction to being startled by humans with dogs compared to being startled by humans with no dogs. That is that the bears will have a stronger reaction to being startled by humans with dogs. My first prediction was that a bear will move away from a human with a loose dog at a longer distance than a human with no dog, and my second prediction was that the bears will be moving further away from the initial site after being startled by humans with dogs compared to being startled by humans with no dogs. The study was conducted on the southernmost bear population in Scandinavia (Dalarna and Gävleborg Län), using a total of 112 approaches, of which 71 was humans with no dogs and 41 was humans with dogs. I found that my first prediction was true – that bears moved away from humans with dogs at a further distance than humans with no dogs. This may be because the dog indicates human presence and gives the bear a chance to move away before even seeing the human. It may also be because dogs are usually in hunting situation and the bear moving away from the dog may be necessary for its survival. I also found that my second prediction of the bear moving further away from initial site when approached by humans with dogs compared to humans with no dogs was true. A dog will be able to follow a bear further than a human will, and it may therefore be necessary to move further from a dog than a human to avoid being discovered again. In conclusion: based on my findings my answer to the public concerns about bringing their dogs on hikes in areas with bears is that loose dogs do not elevate the danger for getting into conflicts with bears.


Katie Carroll

Date 2015
Pages 29
Publisher Norwegian University of Life Sciences
Degree Masters Degree
Language English
University Norwegian University of Life Sciences
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal behavior
  2. Animal roles
  3. Bears
  4. Dogs
  5. human-animal conflict
  6. Human-animal interactions
  7. human-wildlife interactions
  8. Interactions
  9. Mammals
  10. Nature
  11. Physical environment
  12. Scandinavia
  13. Wild animals