THE BEAR FACTS

American Black Bear

Magazine Covers that
Demonize
Bears

On a visit to the North American Black Bear Center in Ely, Minnesota some years ago, I took back with me invaluable information about the American Black Bear.

Of the many things I learned there, one fact stands out in my mind: the American public has been sold a bill of goods about bears. We have been badly educated about America's wild bears.

Since the 1940's prestigeous magazines - like Outdoor Life, Sports Afield, American Hunter, Life Magazine, Time Magazine, Petersen's Bowhunting, even National Geographic - have been publishing demonizing articles and magazine covers that evoke fear in us. As a result, millions of us have ingrained notions of bears as 'snarling bruins' out to attack and kill us at every opportunity.

This is simply not the case.

Their bear attack stories garnered a huge readership while erroneously teaching us that bears were "growling, slant-eyed demons" with "minds only for mayhem." As for the men who fought them, they were always described as nothing short of heroes. [This comes from an Outdoor Life article published in 1998 by author James Driscoll who wrote about how bear attack stories had changed over the last 100 years.]

The Bear Center had many such magazine covers framed and on display, which I photographed for you. Many of you will recognize or remember some these horrific covers. I know I do!

The thing is, all species of bear are not alike in their disposition or ferociousness. The grizzly bear, for example, is 27 times more likely to attack humans than the black bear. And even then, like all bears, grizzlies prefer a solitary existence and normally only attack when provoked by humans.

Sometimes the provocation is mindless, like leaving food within easy reach at campsites; or it is more stupid like people hiking into the remote wilderness armed with little or no information about regional bears and their behavior, or even what to look for.

Take a close look at several sample covers below, and remember that BLACK BEARS are timid and easily frightened, reclusive, mostly solitary, and inherently non-confrontational. They are not dangerous and and they are not unpredictable. They also do not snarl (like dogs) or show their teeth in aggressive displays. And they are not ferociously protective of their cubs like the grizzly beartends to be.

In other words, these demonizing covers have it all wrong about bears. Their primary objective is to SELL MAGAZINES. And drama sells! Touched-up bear photographs sell. The problem is, educators and well-intentioned others pick up on these misleading dramatizations and pass them along as important sources of bear information (which they are not.)

As we speak, all wild bears in North America are loosing habitat and suffering losses from hunting and from misguided folks who think it is OK feed them.

Take a look at a few of those demonizing magazine covers on display at the North American Black Bear Center: PITIFUL...

 

 

 

 

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