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Grizzly bears, black bears, wolves, coyotes, cougars/ mountain lions,bobcats, wolverines, lynx, foxes, fishers and martens are the suite of carnivores that originally inhabited North America after the Pleistocene extinctions. This site invites research, commentary, point/counterpoint on that suite of native animals (predator and prey) that inhabited The Americas circa 1500-at the initial point of European exploration and subsequent colonization. Landscape ecology, journal accounts of explorers and frontiersmen, genetic evaluations of museum animals, peer reviewed 20th and 21st century research on various aspects of our "Wild America" as well as subjective commentary from expert and layman alike. All of the above being revealed and discussed with the underlying goal of one day seeing our Continent rewilded.....Where big enough swaths of open space exist with connective corridors to other large forest, meadow, mountain, valley, prairie, desert and chaparral wildlands.....Thereby enabling all of our historic fauna, including man, to live in a sustainable and healthy environment. - Blogger Rick

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Sunday, October 16, 2016

Reciprocal Altruism---New Hampshire biologist Ben Kilham's study of Black Bears over the past 25 years has revealed that while female bears do stake out and defend home territories between 3 and 8 square miles, in years where there are food shortages(bad mast year, drought, etc), a given female will allow another neighboring female to share her territory so that the "neighbor bear" will not starve.............As Kilham concludes---"the host sow understands on some level that she may be a visiting sow another year(where she might need her neighbors altruism to survive)"....................“This (type) reciprocal altruism is a basis of human behavior"............................ "This is the first non-human animal that this type of behavior has been described in"...............” Kilham has also observed several social mechanisms that accompany reciprocal altruism: justice and punishment, friendship, food-sharing, and moralistic aggression"

Something Wild: Black Bears 101 with Ben Kilham

  OCT 7, 2016
Black bears are as much a part of New Hampshire as fall foliage and stone walls, nevertheless they are a misunderstood species. To better understand the species, we wanted to talk to a bear, the closest thing we could get was Ben Kilham. And that’s pretty close, which is evident when you meet him. He’s over six-feet tall and moves with a slow ambling gait. His ursine tendencies aren’t surprising when you consider Kilham’s been studying and living with black bears for nearly 25 years.

We humans find bears intimidating. They’ve got these huge claws and teeth that look like they could probably rip you to pieces. But Kilham’s spent much of his life painting a more nuanced picture of these marvelous beasts. “Bears can read our emotional communication,” he says. “But it’s not that hard for us to understand how a bear communicates.”
Imagine yourself walking on a trail the wind is blowing through the leaves. The sun trickling through the canopy overhead, maybe you’re even whistling a happy tune. And suddenly you come across a sow, who has hurried her cubs up a nearby tree. “She false-charges you, she rushes at you, swats the ground, expels a big blast of air, your bodily fluids start to loosen up a bit.” A natural reaction, but despite what we might see as aggressive behavior, Kilham says that she is seeing you as the aggressor. “Think about it they were having a perfectly fine day until you showed up.” So this display is simply a tactic to delay confrontation to establish communication.
You’re standing there with soiled shorts – you’ve stopped whistling, but what’s the right thing to do in this situation? A common myth is to make yourself look bigger and shout at the bear to scare it off. But as Kilham points out, “if it’s a sow with young cubs and you scare those cubs, you’ve escalated the situation. Always de-escalate.” It’s not as hard to do as it sounds, because remember bears can read our emotional communication. It’s as simple as talking softly to the bear, in the same sort of appeasing tone you might use for your pet or a young child. 
And when it comes to finding food, the situation isn’t every bear for herself. Kilham has observed several generations of bear society in his more than two decades studying them. Sows, typically have a home range of 3-8 square miles, but some years that range provides more bounty than others. In years when there is a dearth of food, she wander to a different part of the forest. “So they’ll end up in a neighboring female’s home range where there is a surplus of food.” Kilham has observed that the “host” sow allows visiting sows to feed; because the “host” sow understands on some level that she may be a visiting sow another year.
Kilham gets excited about this behavior. “This is reciprocal altruism is a basis of human behavior. This is the first non-human animal that this type of behavior has been described in.” He’s also observed several social mechanisms  that accompany reciprocal altruism: justice and punishment, friendship, food-sharing, and moralistic aggression. 

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