By Harry Baker
A mysterious neurological disease in young Californian black bears ( Ursus americanus ) is making them behave like pet dogs, cozying up to humans in a friendly manner. Though it sounds cute, this abnormal behavior dramatically worsens the bears’ chances of surviving in the wild.
The bears , which are all around 1 year old, appear to be suffering from a form of infectious encephalitis — inflammation of the brain tissue that can be caused by viruses , bacteria , fungi and parasites, as well as part of an autoimmune response. But veterinarians are unsure exactly what is causing the problem or how fast it is spreading among the population.
Symptoms include a prominent head tilt, lethargic movements, muscle tremors, seizures, walking in circles and being significantly underweight, as well as a surprising fearlessness towards humans. “Infected bears come to our attention because they approach people in a peaceful, friendly and non-aggressive manner,” said Ann Bryant, executive director of the BEAR (Bear Education Aversion Response) League who has been involved in rescuing infected bears. “Their behavior is similar to a dog, not a bear.” In the last year, four individuals have been found with the disease — the highest […]
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