Why Are Grizzly Bears Hunted

While thankfully, due to modern day conservation efforts, the practice is in decline, Grizzly Bears, and indeed other species of bears, have been hunted by some cultures for centuries. Hunters have always favoured them as a prize because of their perceived ferocity and size, but hunting practices vary depending on location, species, and laws.

Hunting methods and the reasons for hunting these magnificent animals have also changed throughout history.

Pelts for Warmth

People hunt bears for a variety of reasons, but one of the main ones is for their pelt. A bears fur comprises two layers: the under fur, which is thick, soft and insulating, and the outer guard hairs that are coarser and protect the animal from dirt, insects and debris. While the fur of Grizzly Bears has always been sought after, it was the fur of the Black Bears that was held as more valuable in the American West. The animals’ fur was used to make the bearskins that were used as part of a uniform of many army regiments. In other parts of the world, the Inuit use the fur of Polar Bears to make warm clothing.

Food

Throughout history, bear meat has always been considered a delicacy, although in the Middle Ages it served a more symbolic than culinary purpose. In Russian and Ainu cultures bear meat was eaten regularly and paws and thighs were believed to be the tastiest parts. The Inuit, of course, eat Polar Bears and often bake or boil the meat into a stew. (Polar Bear liver is highly toxic due of the high levels of vitamin A, so the meat has to be well cooked.) Whatever species, bear meat is an acquired taste, being sweet, coarse and greasy. The fat was historically used in cooking by American settlers and Native Americans and also used to fuel lamps.

Medicinal Purposes

Some Native American tribes used bear fat for medicinal purposes and in Chinese medicine it is the gall bladder that is highly sought after. Traditional Chinese medicine denotes that the urso-deoxycholic acid found in a bears gall bladder can help combat rheumatism, gallstones and bad eyesight.

So, as with most animals, throughout history Grizzly Bears have been hunted mainly because of the value placed on their physical attributes. With today’s more forward thinking conservation efforts focusing on the preservation instead of decimation of the world’s wildlife, the Grizzly Bears, along with their cousins from other species, can look forward to a far more certain future and some level of protection from human hunters.

Understanding The Facts Of Bear Hibernation

Most people heading off on bear tours to either Europe or Canada choose this kind of wildlife holiday because they have an existing fascination with these wonderful creatures. Indeed, they really are interesting animals, with intriguing and somewhat complex behaviours. Hibernation is one part of their existence that always proves a popular topic among wildlife enthusiasts.

If you have booked on to one of the range of organised bear tours, you will no doubt be travelling at a time when animals are no longer in hibernation, as you would be unlikely to see any otherwise. But what is hibernation, really, and why do these animals spend months in a deep slumber surviving with no sustenance at all?

Why do Bears Hibernate?

Bears hibernate through pure necessity. Conditions in their habitat can be harsh and, particularly in winter, the animals find it very hard to function efficiently when food is often scarce and temperatures plummet. It is therefore easier and more effective for them to become dormant and sleep through the hard times, thus conserving energy and staying warm. During hibernation their metabolism slows down and fat reserves are used up at a slow and steady rate. They eat and drink nothing when they hibernate and therefore do not need to eliminate waste either.

What About in Captivity?

If you don’t get the opportunity to go on any of the fantastic bear tours available, you can always visit a zoo to observe the animals up close and personal. While its nowhere near the same experience, bears in captivity do not need to hibernate so you can usually observe them at any time. Food is plentiful, as is water, so therefore the animals do not need to become dormant to survive. They may, however, simply through an evolutionary mechanism, slow down in the wintertime and become more listless and eat less. A bear in captivity displays much the same behaviour as one in the wild and so, due to instinct, it will often sleep during the day. Pregnant bears in captivity usually still hibernate as a way of conserving energy for their offspring.

How Long do they Hibernate?

Hibernation begins in October and comes to an end sometime in April or May. Spring brings with it new growth and a plentiful supply of nutrient-rich food sources, which encourages the reflex to awaken and replenish their reserves.

If you embark on one of the excellent bear tours run by a reputable and experienced wildlife travel company, the trip will be led by an expert guide well versed in the animals’ behaviour and their yearly (and daily) cycles. You’ll be able to gain a fascinating insight into these wonderful creatures.