Cemetery bears seeking refuge from what?


A family of bears have been seeking refuge in the village cemetery at night, a sow (mother) with her three cubs. I have been to the cemetery several times over the past few days to investigate and I found a lot of scat and a number of graves with juvenile paw marks on them. I also set up a camera trap close to the upper entrance close to the forest. The question that everyone has been asking is why the cemetery? I have a few theories, but I asked a few friends for their input too.





Peter a forest ranger living and working in the Yukon Territory of Canada says that this behaviour is pretty common there too. Sows with cubs will often hang around areas of human habitation because they know large dominant and sub-adult wild boars (which are a threat to the cubs) avoid these areas. However, he goes on to say that because people have a low tolerance for bears these kind of situations do not generally end well for them.




Daniel Opait (a wildlife photographer, conservationist and tracker) from Romania says it's breeding season for bears and sows with cubs will go to great lengths to avoid confrontations with the males wanting to mate (another direct threat to the cubs).





Another possibility is that this mother is one of the infamous relocated 'Bin bears of Brasov'. Some bears have have found that it is less effort to scavenge for human food waste in the city than it is to find equivalent calories from the forest. However, this familiarity and close proximity with humans has lead to several deaths (for both man and bear) over the years. As a result troublesome bears are moved to more remote forested areas of the country such as Harghita, Vrancea and Covasna counties.

Relocated bears can often be recognised by the radio tracking collars that they are fitted with before release. Unfortunately, old habits die hard and when a bear has a taste for human food they will soon find their way to the nearest human settlement to continue scavenging. Peter says that in North America the relocation of grizzly bears is usually ineffective unless they are moved more than 700 kms away from their territory which also needs to be free of human habitation. This principal could never be applied in the European Union because the land mass is so much smaller compared to North America.

Transhumance shepherds are also gathering their flocks on the lower meadows close to the village. They have many large livestock guardian dogs which roam on the meadows at night protecting sheep from wolf and bear depredation. They can be highly aggressive and would certainly pose a direct threat to the cubs if there was an encounter.

There does appear to be a multitude of possible threats to this sow's cubs, so her reasons for taking refuge in the village cemetery every night could be one or more of the above mentioned possibilities. So far there have been no confrontations with villagers in the cemetery and lets hope for everyone and the bears that it stays that way.