Naturalist Casey Anderson seems to think that man’s best friend shouldn’t be a dog, but a grizzly bear—an 800 lb. one, in fact. He raised the beast, appropriately named Brutus, since birth, and has made him an integral part of his family, documenting the relationship through all sorts of (possibly Photoshopped) photographs. Anderson depicts the bear as a gentle creature, but as we all know, grizzly bears are wild animals that under no circumstances should be treated as pets. Casey Anderson and National Geographic have vouched for the authenticity of Anderson’s relationship with the bear, and the many photos taken. “He’s my best friend,” Anderson told Good Morning America. “He gives me unconditional love.” He says the idea that bears are people-killers is, “the biggest misconception. When you hear about a grizzly bear, it’s because they have done something wrong.” Anderson said. “We’re trying to cure the myths, educate the public.”
Anderson took ownership over Brutus when he was just a cub, in a wildlife reserve suffering from overpopulation. He established a sanctuary in Montana so Brutus “could act like a real bear.”
Grizzlies eat 35 pounds of food daily, consisting primarily of berries, roots, and other vegetation, but will also eat what other animals have killed. They can weigh up to 1,200 pounds.
Those who do mistakenly treat grizzlies more like teddy bears than wild animals inevitably end up becoming the creators of their own demise—we need look no further than Timothy Treadwell of Werner Herzog’s compelling Grizzly Man documentary to see proof of that.
The debate over whether bears and other wild creatures should be treated as pets has caused some scientists and researchers to weigh in. And we’d do well to listen to them. Here’s the advice of Dr. Oded Berger-Tal, editor of ‘Conservation Behavior: Applying Behavioral Ecology to Wildlife Conservation and Management,’ and professor of desert ecology at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, when asked the question of whether bears should be treated as pets:
“Well, no. The main reason is that bears are wild animals, and the concept of friendship is a human construct. There are many ‘cute’ videos online of men feeding wild bears and playing with them, and seeing them with our human eyes and feelings, it can be easy to call what we see friendship, of the sort we associate with domesticated dogs. The truth is that bears are very smart, which means that they easily learn to associate people in general or specific persons with food. Add the fact that most of the time bears are not aggressive animals and you have the recipe for a cute video.
“The problem is that bears don’t understand the human construct called friendship, and the same bear that fed out of your hands today can easily maul you to death tomorrow – whether because it is a female bear that thinks that you are endangering her cubs, or a bear entering hibernation and looking for any food source it can find. The famous story of the ‘Grizzly man’ is a classic example—Timothy Treadwell claimed he ‘befriended’ wild Grizzly bears, spending many days in close contact with them, until one day both him and his girlfriend were killed and eaten by a bear. This story also exemplifies the main victims of these ‘friendships’—the bears. The bear that killed Timothy and his girlfriend was shot and killed. Why was the bear shot? The bear only acted according to its natural instincts, but to our eyes it ‘betrayed’ the trust of the man who considered it his friend. We impose our human concepts on wild animals and then kill them when they don’t conform to these human ideas.
Teaching bears to associate humans and human settlements with food is dangerous to humans but is especially dangerous for the bears. Once bears learn that humans = easy food, they will persistently try to obtain that food, leaving themselves at the mercy of humans that decide according to their human standards (which the bears don’t know about and can’t understand) when the bears have ‘crossed the line’ and should be killed for the protection of humans. So no, not really the stuff friendships are made of.”