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Thread: A gentle question - habituation

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    Default A gentle question - habituation

    I want to make clear that I am posting this out of a genuine interest in being educated in order to have greater appreciation of bear baiting. It's a method of hunting that I'm biased against and I communicate that bias to people I converse with about hunting issues. I have some suspicion that my bias is based at least partly on ignorance, and I'd like to be corrected.

    With that introduction I beg people not to get on here and chime in on how opposed to bear baiting they are. This thread isn't the place for that. This part of the forum isn't the place for that. If you want to pee and moan about baiting, you can PM me, and I may join you, but not on this thread. Understood? Thanks.

    Also, thanks in advance for anybody who engages me productively on this thread. If the thread goes south I take full responsibility and apologize greatly in advance.

    So, my question is this: My problem with bear baiting is that I assume that it habituates bears to human food sources. I perceive that this presents both a safety hazard to humans who may be approached by bears for food, and a nuisance hazard in that it may cause bears to be more persistent in their quest to find food in my cabin, under my cabin, inside my snowmachine seat, etc. Am I off base in the above assumptions. Is there a reason that I shouldn't view such habituation as being a persuasive reason to not participate in baiting? Is there anything that responsible bear baiters do to minimize the habituation of bears or impact to humans due to such habituation?

    I'm seriously interested in your thoughts, and am hopeful that I come away from this thread with a greater appreciation for what you do. If nobody wants to respond, I understand that as well.

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    Well I'm no biologist/psychiatrist etc, but I'll offer an opinion based on a few seasons of baiting.

    I believe that successful baiters habituate Bears to their bait location, not necessarily a particular type of food. What I mean is that a bear gets used to an easy meal from a barrel in a particular location on his weekly shopping route, or stays put near a bait site if it's replenished regularly.

    But a bear who's been eating doughnuts for a month of baiting season doesn't start seeking doughnuts simply because that's what he's been eating, bears are opportunists.

    More importantly, guys who are good at baiting don't hand feed the Bears, so they are getting habituated to eat at a location, but I don't think they necessarily associate humans with producing that food. If a bear happened to be sitting at the barrel watching me fill it I would have been shooting not filling!

    My experience has also been that only a handful of bears ever eat from a site too, some eat there once an never return, some camp there until the food is gone and come back when it's replenished.

    I routinely recreate in the area I bait in and have yet to SEE a bear while out there at any time of the year, bait season or bird season.


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    good information limon. I could summarize it as "I don't have anything to worry about such bears, unless I'm storing popcorn outside at my cabin in a 55 gallon drum)

    That certainly makes a bit of sense.

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    My personal experience is that I have "NOT" seen that to be an issue. And there are a LOT of bait stations around Sunrise, Alaska (Near Hope, Alaska). In my opinion I just don't see that as a reason to "NOT" bait bears.

    The young bears 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 years old are very lonely, very stupid, and very curious. Which makes them inclined to approach humans and human dwellings. Nearly all of the 3 y/o plus bears I encounter near the hope road are skiddish & fearful.

    I find zero reason to not bait bears for concern of habituation.

    In my opinion the single biggest problem for Humans in Bears encounters, is their (Human's) natural reaction to retreat rather than stand their ground. This retreating by a human (even only one step) triggers the bears "Natural" Reaction to chase. And this is just natural behavior for humans and bears. and has zero to do with bear baiting.

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    I totally agree with limon. It's been my experience that baiting can keep a bear coming back to a certain location, but I once the food is gone...so are the bears. Last year I baited in the same area that I moose hunt. I got pictures of 3 different bears at my bait site, but I've never seen a bear in the area in 8 years of hunting moose. I've seen sign, but not seen a bear. I doubt bears in the area will be running down passing wheelers to shake them down for donuts.

    If humans (other than hunters using a bait site) are having to interact with bears at a particular bait site, that bait is in a poor, and probably illegal location.

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    AGL- Do you think that hunting bears, regardless of the method, results in a population that is particularly skittish around humans? Or, are you simply seeing natural bear behavior?

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    This question requires a complete essay. But a very brief overview is, you have to watch young cubs reactions with their mother and even more closely the reactions learned between the cubs. She the mother will pick them (the cubs) up by the neck, and she will swat them. The little cub start to do this with each other as playful tag. The cub will take turns chasing each other, get caught and the one chasing will lightly grab the neck of the other.

    This is sometimes played-out with three cubs, if there are three cubs still alive. It is chase-catch-subdue, the break contact. This is a key point Chase-Catch-Subdue-Break Contact. Note: this is note restricted to bears only....foxes, wolves, wolverines I have noticed doing this, including young bears playing Chase-Catch-Subdue-Break Contact with both foxes and also wolverines. I have never seen bears "Play" with young wolves. The sows do not seem to have any concern about her cubs playing Chase-Catch-Subdue-Break Contact with other species like fox or wolverines.

    In my opinion this is what happens when a bear encounter's a human. If you watch the cubs as soon as they break contact, they fake each out back and forth to see which will run. I think this carries over for bears the rest of their life, Chase-Catch-Subdue-Break Contact. This is why "IF" a human is stupid enough to retreat they will get Chased-Caught-Subdued-(Now: if they fight being subdued, they will get mauled till subdued). If they surrender it is likely the bear will break contact.

    If you study the bear mauling of humans most are not fatal. But humans have soft shells and because the main way that cubs subdue each other is by grabbing the neck or ear of the other cub. Humans break easy.

    The skittish and fearful behavior is about Size. The size of the human sillioute as compared to that of other bears. Bears are constantly judging the danger of other bears. This is the whole dance of hopping on their front feet, and popping their teeth.

    Quote Originally Posted by HikerDan View Post
    AGL- Do you think that hunting bears, regardless of the method, results in a population that is particularly skittish around humans? Or, are you simply seeing natural bear behavior?

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    there is potential for habituation and that potential is reduced by 2 efforts.
    first obviously is that the intent is to kill and eat these bears that cone in. certainly there is a yielded harvest year that comprises a reduction in bears that will be of no further concern in the future. blunt, sorry, but true.
    additionally, there are legal stipulations imposed for baiting/baiters to keep far away from roads and cabins by measurable distances. Adf&g has done a good job with these measurable stipulations with mandatory distances imposed for setting up a bait site.
    your question is still a good one and occasionally nuisance bears arise. no one can prove they don't have bait site backgrounds. but best efforts are made and a lot of people enjoy some fresh groceries in the spring from a renewable resource.

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    Quote Originally Posted by HikerDan View Post

    So, my question is this: My problem with bear baiting is that I assume that it habituates bears to human food sources. I perceive that this presents both a safety hazard to humans who may be approached by bears for food, and a nuisance hazard in that it may cause bears to be more persistent in their quest to find food in my cabin, under my cabin, inside my snowmachine seat, etc. Am I off base in the above assumptions. Is there a reason that I shouldn't view such habituation as being a persuasive reason to not participate in baiting? Is there anything that responsible bear baiters do to minimize the habituation of bears or impact to humans due to such habituation?
    .
    Dan,
    As u probably know, bears are enormously intelligent, resourceful, and persistent. These animals naturally and continually seek out existing AND new food sources. Although they learn much behavior from their mother, they certainly are capable of figuring new sources of food. There sense of smell is as good as they come. So cabins, coolers, caverns, it doesn't matter. They WILL investigate given a chance.
    Bottom line....... I doubt baiting changes or enhances a Bears 'natural' ability or behavior at all. Baiting DOES however, allow a harvester to more easily select and identify the bear he takes. This in theory should spare many females or other inferior bears that might be taken otherwise.
    Your sarcasm is way, waaaayyyyyyyy more sarcastic than mine!

  10. #10

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    I realized that I may not have answered your question. The skittishness and fearful behavior is (in My opinion) caused by their fear of being killed by another bear. I don't think it is a fear of humans as much as a fear and skittishness of any animal that stands and watches them. I think their filter is first can I (The bear) make this other "thing" (human or bear or caribou) run or retreat. As soon as it see's that the other "thing" is not retreating or worse running towards it, it shifts to skittishness and fearful. This is why you ofter first notice a close bear just standing there watching you.

    On a slightly different bear behavior subject........I have been "Stalked" (5) five times by bears and this stalking is a completely different type of bear behavior that any other bear behavior. And very comical (unless you are not watching and it startles you and you jump......triggering Chase-Catch-Subdue). They stalk by circling and hiding, well hiding their head, leaving their huge Butt up in the air. This is a serious behavior, and it is hard to snap them out of this once the stalk has started.

    Quote Originally Posted by HikerDan View Post
    AGL- Do you think that hunting bears, regardless of the method, results in a population that is particularly skittish around humans? Or, are you simply seeing natural bear behavior?

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    Quote Originally Posted by AGL4now View Post
    I realized that I may not have answered your question. The skittishness and fearful behavior is (in My opinion) caused by their fear of being killed by another bear. I don't think it is a fear of humans as much as a fear and skittishness of any animal that stands and watches them. I think their filter is first can I (The bear) make this other "thing" (human or bear or caribou) run or retreat. As soon as it see's that the other "thing" is not retreating or worse running towards it, it shifts to skittishness and fearful. This is why you ofter first notice a close bear just standing there watching you.

    On a slightly different bear behavior subject........I have been "Stalked" (5) five times by bears and this stalking is completely different behavior that any other bear behavior. And very comical.
    I have been stalked by one black bear, that I was aware of anyway, the only thing that kept it from being terrifying to me was 240gr hard cast lead!


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    There is a big difference between a direct (More or Less) straight line approach and this stalking behavior. I have never been stalked by a black bear, they were all brown bears. Three of those times it was with a client and we were not after bears. The other two times I was alone.

    Quote Originally Posted by limon32 View Post
    I have been stalked by one black bear, that I was aware of anyway, the only thing that kept it from being terrifying to me was 240gr hard cast lead!


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    Thanks to everybody for the responses. Good stuff for me to ruminate on.

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    I got stalked by a brown bear while fishing Sheep Creek one day. And of course it was the one day I didn't have my gun with me. Luckily I was able to get to my truck before anything happened, the hair on the back of my neck stood up the whole time. I could see it shadowing me and my buddy back in the trees and just getting glimpses of it through the bushes. He was doing his best to be quiet and hidden, most of the time I've encountered bears they just run off. I've never seen a bear act like that one, it was pretty freaky. Looked like a fairly young brown bear, maybe 3-4 years old, I'm guessing he was having bad luck with the fishing or something.
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    One thing I am concerned about as a bear baiter is I think we give cubs and extra chance at survival by supplying an easy meal until other foods are more prevalent. This helps the population increase perhaps at a detriment to other species.

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    Bears are opportunistic eaters. They have incredibly keen noses. They will find food if they can smell it, and if there is any odor to it escaping its containment, they will smell it. If anything, baiting makes bears more wary of people food, not less. A bear raiding a deserted cabin has nothing to worry about. Approaching a bait station, they are very concerned about human presence. The best bait stations and bear baiters are those that reduce the human scent as much as possible while at the station. Bears approach bait stations with extreme care, especially the older, wiser ones. Sows impart the same caution to their cubs. They seem to realize there is great danger associated with this easy food source. Your cabin, not so much. You're not there, there has never been a bad consequence to them for visiting it, so they exhibit less caution in their approach to it.

    Bears aren't trained to start liking people food by coming to bait stations. They already think it smells good, otherwise they wouldn't come in to eat it. If something smells good, they will check it out. If you are wondering what habituates bears to break into cabins, start looking at other cabins in the area. It only takes one easy meal from a cabin to cause a bear to investigate other cabins for likewise easy meals.

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    Imo..... The only way that bears get accustomed to people food, is when there is a consistent amount of people around at the same time.

    Not the case at a bear bait. A bear doesn't pull a pastry out of a barrel and think to himself........."Oh look, a human left this here for me"........
    Sheep hunting...... the pain goes away, but the stupidity remains...!!!

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    Quote Originally Posted by willphish4food View Post
    If you are wondering what habituates bears to break into cabins, start looking at other cabins in the area. It only takes one easy meal from a cabin to cause a bear to investigate other cabins for likewise easy meals.
    I believe this. One thing I have noticed is that bears in the Talkeetna area will destroy anything that I have under a tarp. I've had a number of woodpiles and stacks of construction materials knocked over by a bear that I assume has learned that good things are covered by tarps.

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    A good question Hiker Dan and a well framed discussion.

    I don't believe baiting habituates bears to human food sources... generally humans do that pretty well on their own by being pretty sloppy around cabins and so forth. In states with no baiting allowed, you still have problem bears breaking into garbage, cabins, etc.

    Even though I don't like baiting because I find it kind of boring, it is likely the most effective way of taking bears in the Interior since spot and stalk is tough to do in the endless taiga.
    "I do not deal in hypotheticals. The world, as it is, is vexing enough..." Col. Stonehill, True Grit

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    God i love this forum: I love bear baiting and have been doing it for several years and agree with much that has been said. I have seen that many enjoy baiting and although i may have missed it, i would like to suggest taking the bear baiting class. It provides great info, an opportunity to learn the true laws and guidelines. Maybe someone will take the time to allow a tag along

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