Animals are unpredictable, when we find ourselves in extreme situations exposed to big animals we get scared because we never know how they are going to act.
Bears are the perfect example of this, we are told that if we ever are in front of a bear, we have to be steady, quiet and move as least as possible or they would immediately attack us. But this isn’t the case with some bears in California.
It seems that some of these animals are getting too friendly with the local visitors, which is odd behavior for this species, they usually are shy and they are likely to hide from humans. In 2014, it was first noticed by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife that the bears were acting more like dogs, they were too peaceful and fearless among people, and were like real-life teddy bears.
This may sound like a dream come true, who wouldn’t want to hug an actual bear like it was an enormous stuffed animal?
But this isn’t good, it means that there is something wrong with them, because they are not the kind of animal that seeks people rather than being afraid, so the scientists in California were very concerned and the investigation began.
After they were told by the Nevada Department of Wildlife that something similar was happening to the young bears in the regions of Lake Tahoe, they found out that the creatures were suffering from inflammation of their brains, ergo, encephalitis, and this was directly affecting their neurological system.
Many young bears are suffering from this zombie-like disease, which causes them a deterioration in their cognitive abilities and chronic wasting that doesn’t allow them to survive on their own since they have been abandoned by their mothers and makes their life a lot harder. There isn’t a clue of the mechanism or how fast it is spreading in the bear population, but apparently, scientists aren’t concerned that this could be an issue for it.
During 2019 and the first months of 2021 this behavior increased, there were several cases of bears found in urban areas or approaching humans, and people were happy and loving it, but the experts recommend staying away from them since they not only have encephalitis but also live with five new unknown viruses that haven’t been studied to know if they are damaging for people or other animals, according to Business Insider.
In February of the present year, a small female black bear in Pollock Pines showed up alone in the civilization and didn’t respond to any shooing, cars, or the people yelling around her. The only thing she did was to get in the trunk of a car, but the little bear was just walking quite and dull without any destination and was found in a residential backyard eating apples while acting just like a pet, but she had to be taken for some tests.
The Pollock Pines bear was over 40 pounds under her average weight and after careful examination during the next week of her rescue, she was indeed presenting the same symptoms of the previously found sick bears. Unfortunately, she had to be euthanized, due to her terrible physical condition that would have made it impossible for her to live an enjoyable life.
As they still don’t know what those viruses are, they aren’t sure that this is the reason for the encephalitis or why the behavior is changing so much. Encephalitis can also be the result of bacteria, fungi, parasites, or an autoimmune response, but this still remains unsure. What they know is that the disease isn’t transmissible among bears, which makes it even harder to determine where it is from.
Along with the friendly attitude, they are losing so much weight it is worrying, and after being examined by veterinarians, it was found that they were presenting several signs of neurological distress, like head tremors and tilting, lethargic movements, muscle tremors, and seizures.
Though it is believed that the viruses aren’t threatening to humans, people should stay away from them, since in the past many of these infections had jumped into humans, and it can’t be predicted if this could happen with these animals too.
The ill bears need long-term medical care, but a few of them have been euthanized so they don’t suffer in the wild, since this condition makes them vulnerable or because their physical condition is so poor that they aren’t going to be able to make it.
A lot of them are being taken care of in some care facilities and zoos. Meanwhile, the ones that have been in observation, didn’t show any signs of recovery. As long as there isn’t a cure or an explanation for this illness, they are threatened. We hope that science finds the reason for this sickness and the bears can live happily in their habitat.