European bears are apparently more nocturnal than North American bears thanks to 40,000 years of human hunting, at least according to this story in [the New York Times. ](http://green.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/07/02/do-bears-sense-that-hunters-are-afoot/ From the story:)
From the story:
Alpha predators like bears, wolves and mountain lions are used to calling the shots in nature. But when humans arrive with guns and hounds, this hierarchy is displaced in more ways than one. Obviously, hunting costs animal lives, but some researchers also speculate that a hunter’s presence reverberates in other ways, too, changing the behavior of these large carnivorous quarry. In other words, predators know they’re being hunted.
For example, “it’s been argued for some years that in Europe, wolves and brown bears are more nocturnal than in North America as a consequence of a long history of human persecution,” said Andres Ordiz, a conservation ecologist at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences and the lead author of a paper for the journal Biological Conservation that investigates the phenomenon.
According to the story, researchers in Sweden placed GPS collars on 78 brown bears and then compared the bears’ foraging and movement patterns both before, during and after Sweden’s hunting season. And in a discovery that surprised pretty much no one with a lick of common sense, the researchers found that the presence of human hunters altered the bears’ behavior.
From the story:
Usually, the bears forage for about 12 hours a day, taking a midday nap and also sleeping during the darkest hours of the night. The researchers expected that, as winter approached and the Scandinavian nights grew longer, the bears would start focusing their foraging efforts during daylight hours. They followed their subjects for two weeks prior to the start of the hunting season and two weeks after the hunters were unleashed. To their surprise, as soon as the first hunting party hit the scene, the bears drastically changed their patterns of activity.
You think? As scientific discoveries go, isn’t that one a bit self-evident? Doesn’t any kind of human activity tend to alter animal behavior in one way or another? Just ask any public-land deer hunter…