Courtney Hughes, Beatrice Frank, Natalka A. Melnycky, Nicholas T. Yarmey, Jenny Anne Glikman
Ursus 2020 (31e15), 1-12, (27 October 2020) https://doi.org/10.2192/URSUS-D-19-00002.2
KEYWORDS: bears, conservation, human–bear interactions, policy, relations, sociocultural values, stories, theme
Throughout history and across their geographic distribution, bear species (Ursidae) have been portrayed and valued for their beauty, physical power, or ecological significance, while concurrently disliked and feared for their ferocity, negative economic impacts, and safety risks they can pose to people. How bear species are depicted in stories—including myths, legends, fables, or tales—can influence how people come to value bears and act toward them. It is our belief that reviewing the stories people tell about bears can be useful in understanding people's proclivity to conservation action, given that stories told about bears can be a powerful demonstration of how local culture influences human relations with wildlife. We conducted a review of English-language literature for stories about bears across their global range, to better understand how these stories reflect human thought and imagination, experiences, and behaviors concerning bears. We identify 4 themes about bears as told through different narratives—including kinship, utilitarianism, threat, and political bears—and illustrate how understanding stories told about the wild animals that share our lives can provide important insights into developing conservation policy and action.