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What Good Is a Bear to Society?

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AbstractArising out of fieldwork in the Canadian Rockies, this paper analyzes the role of bears in the conservation culture of Canadian national parks. Why is the presence of this large predator tolerated and even celebrated by some? And why do others fear and even despise this animal, whom they see as a danger and a menace, and resent its continued preservation? Bears may act as a token charismatic species in conservation mythology; they may be anthropomorphized into a cuddly roadside attraction evoking childhood nostalgia; or they may play the part of wrathful Nature guarding against human incursion into the wilderness. Tourists in Banff National Park take great pains to see bears, while local hikers and campers expend almost equal energy avoiding an ursine encounter. This paper explores what human reactions to bears reveal about social attitudes toward the natural world, particularly in areas like the Canadian Rockies where human and bear territory overlap.

Affiliations: 1: University of British


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