Issues arise with fearless bears
News stories about the bears that broke into a Hanover home have been using the word “domesticated,” as if the animals were housebroken pets.
“Domesticated” is the kind of word we use when we don’t understand what we’re talking about, or because we just don’t care about the proper use of words, or are afraid the average reader will not understand the word “habituated.”
For bears, or mountain lions, or any other animal we want to keep a good distance from our homes, that is the proper word, as in this definition from Animal Behavior Online:
“Habituation is an extremely simple form of learning, in which an animal, after a period of exposure to a stimulus, stops responding.”
In the case of bears, what they stop is being afraid of humans after they learn that humans mean food and nothing bad happens to them when they are near houses.
Trust us when we say that a bear that breaks into your home, takes food from your refrigerator (yes, they can figure out how to open it) and cupboard and smears it over the kitchen, and if you’re very unlucky, kills your cat and dog, and then defecates in your breezeway before ripping through your screen slider to get out, is not “domesticated,” it is habituated.
“Bad bear! Bad!” isn’t going to work.