Are Bears Friendly? (Everything You Need To Know)

Bears are wild animals. Even when they’re living in zoos, bears are not domesticated. Still, all of us have seen “friendly” bear movies like The Jungle Book, Brother Bear, or even The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams. 

Are bears friendly? 

No, bears are not friendly. Bears are territorial and defensive, especially around spring or fall, and approaching one could get you hurt or killed. Bears can tolerate being around humans but approaching or attempting to befriend a bear is a very bad idea. 

Are Bear Cubs Friendly?

Bear cubs are adorable, curious, and very likely to approach humans – simply because they don’t know any better. When you do, it’s better to keep your distance. Bear cubs are extremely cute, but keep in mind that mama bear is nearby. 

Bear cubs may be relatively easy to pet but they aren’t friendly. However, they can bond with humans because baby mammals bond with larger mammals to look for care and protection. 

At the same time, if you see a bear cub in the wild, it’s best to back away slowly.

Humans interacting with bear cubs is the second most common way to be attacked by a bear. That’s behind food accidents, where people leave food out when camping and lure a bear in and then startle it. 

Mother bears are extremely defensive of their cubs. Even if you don’t see the mother bear in sight, she is there. And, she will charge and try to defend her cubs if you interfere with them. 


Can Bears Be Kept As Pets?

Bears are not domesticated animals. That means they will never be as affectionate, loyal, or trainable as a dog or even a cat. That unpredictable temperament is one reason why bears make bad pets. In addition, bears are big. 

The smallest bear, the Sun Bear, is almost 5 feet long and weighs up to 145 lbs. More common bears like black bears commonly weigh from 90 to 550+ pounds.

Bigger bears like Grizzlies can weigh anywhere from 200 to 790 pounds. These animals are large and don’t easily fit into most accommodations. 

They also need significant space to roam, with most guidelines suggesting a minimum of 1 acre per adult bear, including a pool that is at least 900 square feet in area. 

That aside, it’s also illegal to keep a bear as a pet in most of the United States.

States including Alabama, Nevada, North Carolina, Oklahoma, and South Carolina have little to no regulation in place preventing keeping bears as pets. That doesn’t mean it’s safe to do so. 

Bears Are Not Domesticated

Domestication is the process of breeding an animal over multiple generations to display desired traits.

Often, those traits include predictable temperament, submission, and tractability. Domestication also involves breeding out a lot of instinctive responses.

For example, in the autumn, a bear is very likely to devour everything in sight, including any other pets you might have.

They get territorial, defensive, and eat anything in an attempt to store up enough fat to make it through the winter. Then, most bears hibernate for up to 7 and a half months – meaning you’ll never see your pet for that period. 

That lack of domestication also means you might be fighting a losing hierarchy battle once a bear grows to adulthood.

Bears take charge based on size, aggression, and maturity – meaning that as soon as your bear is larger than you, it thinks it’s in charge. 


Can Humans Live Around Bears? 

Bears can become accustomed to humans in their environment. However, even if you regularly see a bear on a trail or moving around, it’s not friendly. Instead, bears get used to things just like you do.

People moving around aren’t a threat, so long as they don’t interact with the bear. 

Often, people often mean easy sources of food. That’s especially true around campsites and cabins, where people are prone to leaving out the trash.

Bears might become accustomed to getting easy food – meaning they are significantly more likely to spend time around that area. This does not mean they are friendly. 


Are Bears Dangerous? 

From the black bear to the brown bear, all bears are dangerous. For example, the American Brown Bear was responsible for 600+ attacks on humans in a 15-year span.

On average, 11 people are mortally wounded by bears in the United States each year. That’s despite having very little face-to-face contact with most interactions between bears and humans being incidental. 

Bears are also significantly stronger and faster than humans. Interacting with a bear could mean accidentally getting hurt. 

Plus, a 129-pound black bear has been observed moving 500+ pounds with a single hind leg. Bears can also run at speeds upwards of 35 miles per hour.

These animals are fast, large, and dangerous – so it’s relatively easy for accidents to happen.

That’s without considering the claws and teeth every bear is born with – with even cubs having a formidable set of both. 

Related: Are bears afraid of fire?


Are Bears Affectionate? 

Bears are social animals for part of the year and will live in family groups, where those family groups show significant social affection and care. However, for most of the year, bears are solitary animals and will roam on their own. 

This also means that in any case where a bear is forced into a social group for more than part of the year, it is against their nature.

That can result in increased agitation, leading to an increased risk of bites and scratches. Treating them like a more social animal, such as a dog, is a very bad idea. 

Even bears normally assumed to be docile can be dangerous. For example, panda bears are also not friendly.

While pandas are safer and less defensive than many other types of bears, they can and do still attack humans, usually out of irritation or invasion of space. 


What Should You Do If You See A Bear? 

If you see a bear in the wild, especially a cub, it can be tempting to try to pet it. However, that’s a very bad idea. Instead, you should quietly back away. 

Here, it’s also important not to turn around and run. Bears often have the instinct to chase and attack things that are running.

Even if the bear you encounter has no intention to eat you (bears can eat people, but it’s rare) instinct will kick in and it could run after you. 

If you’re forced into a defensive position, trying to make yourself as big as possible by raising your arms over your head and making noise could help.

However, it’s still a good idea to back away and walk to safety. 


To End

Bears can be extremely interesting and beautiful animals. However, they aren’t domesticated, which means it’s never safe to try to befriend them. That’s even true in zoos and petting zoos, where bears may be trained to tolerate a certain amount of contact. However, prolonged social contact with other animals including humans will stress and irritate the bear, making accidents and attacks more likely.

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