The One About a Bear and a Man
Our biggest representative of large carnivores is important element of natural and cultural heritage, not only in Slovenia, but also around the world. The numbers of bears drastically decreased in the end of the 19th century in most of the Middle and South Europe, in some areas were even extinct. Today attitude towards this big carnivore is changing. Nowadays lots of effort throughout different parts of Europe is directed in conservation of bear populations: in Italian and Austrian parts of Alps, in Pyrenees in France, in central part of Apennines in Abruzzzi region, in Spanish Cantabria and in Pindos and Rhodope in Greece.
Generally brown bear is shy animal, which usually avoids encounters with humans. It never atacks man for food, only when the bear feels endangered. But they often cause damage on domestic animals and some objects (bee houses). From this point of view the human-bear conflicts are common, especially where bears in past were extinct and nowadays they are returning to these areas. The problem is that people there have forgotten how to coexist with bears. Therefore in those areas people often unjustly appeal on authorities to remove »problematic« bears, but the problem is usually in inappropriate protection of farmland animals etc. and not in bears.
The One About Bears and Their Role in The Ecosystem
Bears are mostly solitary animals. They usually avoid each other, especially adults, except in the mating time. As most of the other large carnivores bears have also big home ranges and low population densities.
Bear is opportunistic omnivore. It characteristically picks food with highest energy value that is located in the moment in the environment. Most of the bear food is herbal (beechnut, acorn, chestnut, hazelnut, strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, wild garlic etc.), so they have important role to spread seeds with their feces. Food with high protein value represent insects (ants, bees, wasps, some species of beetles – xylophagus beetles, Cetoniidae, Curculionidae …) and their pupae. As scavengers they act »sanitary«, because they »clean« carcasses of dead animals from environment (e.g. after harsh winter or sick animals) and (similarly as wolves and lynxes) they lower the possibilities of spreading infectious diseases in forest ecosystems.
Similarly as wolf and lynx bear is umbrella species, which means that as we protect populations of bears, we protect and conserve their habitat, which is in the same time home to multiple other animal and plant species. A lot of those species are much more unnoticeable and as charismatic as our large carnivores. With their »help« we can easier achieve and implement conservation aims to protect environment and species that live there.