I Grew Up Fearing Bears

I grew up reading many of the magazines on display here.  When I began hunting at 16, I believed bears would charge me in instant anger.  I wondered if I could kill a bear before it got me.  At 18, I saw my first wild black bear.  It ran away.  At 28, I began studying them.  Now, at 68, I reflect on how these magazines continue to mislead people.

– Lynn Rogers, Ph.D., 2007



Why do we fear bears?

scary_magazine_image.jpgExcessive Warnings About Attacks

Attacks are rare and excessive warnings about them create unnecessary fear.  

Balanced and factual information about bears is hard to find.  Providing that information is the main goal of the North American Bear Center where the bears themselves provide much of the information through video footage and research data.


Articles That Demonize Bears

outdoor_life.jpgIn 1998, Outdoor Life ran a story entitled "Grrrr, Outdoor Life Commemorates 100 Years of Bear Attacks."

Author James Driscoll wrote:

By the dawning of the ‘40s. Outdoor Life had built its reputation as the place for attack stories, with bears featured on at least one cover per year.  But over the course of that first half-century of snarling bruins, the way the stories were told changed in significant aspect.


Images vs Reality

terri_lunging.jpg Outdoor magazine artists typically depict bears as startled, angry, charging, or attacking.  All typically are shown with their lips drawn back in some unnatural expression of supposed anger.  The same is true for bears depicted as entering tents and houses.


Bears as Imaginary Dragons

There may be something within us that wants to imagine dangerous animals to prove our courage against them.  People used to imagine dragons.  Today, outdoor writers, artists, and others profit by demonizing bears.  They exaggerate danger, creating fantasies of courage that sell magazines, art, bear hunting trips, and more. 

Many people accept these exaggerations and develop a deep fear of bears.  Believing that bears must be killed to protect life and property, they have eliminated bears from many parts of their former range.  Fear and habitat loss have driven some bear species to the verge of extinction.   

The exaggerations continue today.