Attitudes toward brown bears (Ursus arctos) in Sweden

University essay from SLU/Dept. of Wildlife, Fish and Environmental Studies

Abstract: The Swedish brown bear population has grown from very few animals to at least 2500 individuals in about 80 years time, with a rather constant growth of 1.5 % per year. I wanted to see what the attitudes towards bears are like in Sweden now when the bears expand their habitats closer to urban areas and it is getting more common to encounter bears or tracks from bears in nature. A national mail survey was made in 2004, when no human deaths related to bears had occurred for 102 years, and data was analysed from that survey. I show that most Swedes hold positive attitudes toward bears, despite almost half of the respondents being afraid of encounters with bears. Urbanites are the ones with the most positive attitudes, but also the ones who fear bears the most. When compared to studies from other European countries Swedes are less positive towards bears than people from southern Europe. A large portion of the variation in why people hold their attitudes toward bears remains unexplained, which is most likely due to this survey being designed with previous experiences from wolves in mind and attitudes toward bears are not formed on the same grounds. My conclusion was that future surveys need to focus on examining other aspects to how attitudes toward bears are formed in order to gain a full understanding of this.

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