Nature vs. Nurture: Evidence for social learning of conflict behavior in grizzly bears

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Offspring of grizzly bear mothers with a history of human-bear conflicts are more likely to be involved in human-bear conflicts than offspring of mothers without a history of human-bear conflicts, according to a new study

A mother grizzly bear and her cub in Yellowstone National Park.
A USGS grizzly bear researcher snapped this picture of a mother grizzly bear and her cub in Yellowstone National Park. Recent research shows that fffspring of grizzly bear mothers with a history of human-bear conflicts are more likely to be involved in human-bear conflicts than offspring of mothers without a history of human-bear conflicts. Public domain

The research found no evidence that offspring of grizzly bear fathers with a history of human-bear conflicts were more likely to be involved in human bear conflicts.   

Researchers at the University of Alberta and the USGS collaborated with several entities to build a grizzly bear family tree and evaluate how behaviors are passed along to bear young focusing on bears in Alberta, near the borders of British Columbia, Glacier National Park, and the Blackfeet Reservation.  The long term, ecosystem-scale genetic data used to build the family tree combined with on the ground work with managers provides the best assessment yet of social learning in bears.  The study also found that not all bears using private lands become problem bears.

This work suggests that proactive mitigation to prevent female bears from becoming problem individuals likely will help prevent the perpetuation of conflicts through social learning. For more see the University of Alberta's article on the study.

The paper "Nature vs. Nurture: Evidence for social learning of conflict behaviour in grizzly bears" was published in PLoS One and can be found here.