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Climate Change

The Alarming Rate of Animal Extinction

Biologist E. O. Wilson estimated in 2002 that if current rates of human destruction of the biosphere continue, one-half of all plant and animal species of life on earth will be extinct in 100 years. — E.O. Wilson, "The Future of Life" (2002) (ISBN 0-679-76811-4).

Over the last few centuries, the grizzly bear has suffered a marked reduction in its number of specimens in Europe.

In the first half of this century the bears of the eastern half of Austria have disappear, which, together with the reduction of inhabitable area, this once prominent symbol of Europe is just one more victim of human directed extinction.

In Austria the number of specimens decreased alarmingly and the danger of extinction was high, but by 2011 they were officially extinct in the Limestone Alps. This large majestic brown bear went extinct in the region when the last specimen "Moritz" disappeared. As we move closer to their complete demise (Northern Italy & Austria have an estimated 15 to 30 animals remaining) we lose some of our history, because of its relationship with man, the brown bear has become a figure which is deeply rooted in our culture. As Americans we have just as much to lose, as the bear — as a symbol — emigrated to the United States with our forefathers.

I though that it would be pertinent to share a little information about these fascinating animals.

This animal has a reputation for having an extraordinary smell, much better than that of hunting dogs, as evident by the great development of its nostrils. Although it is probably an exaggeration, one legend tales of an American brown bear, the so-called "Grizzly" who smelled carrion 20 miles away.

Their poor eyesight is often criticized and said to be short-sighted, although scientists point out that this is very relative. Indeed they seem to have a hard time seeing well from afar, compensating for their lack of sight with smell and hearing; but up close bears can see very clearly.

Another curious feature about their behavior is that their hearing is very good and when bears hear something strange, especially if it's something they have not yet perceived with his fine sense of smell, can make them nervous which leads them to get up on two legs to inspect it further. If the bear discovers the presence of a human or any other danger, they will in most cases slip away undetected. Though bear attacks are not unheard of, a female with offspring can be very aggressive even if unprovoked.

Especially now as their habitats are becoming more inhabited by humans attacks are more common.

Bears have traditionally lived in northern regions and for thousands of years have never been forced to share their habitat with humans; in the last century this has changed.

Hibernation

When winter advances and snowfall becomes persistent they seek a refuge to protect themselves. It does not have to be a very large cave to provide a bear with shelter, sometimes, a hole excavated will suffice, taking advantage of the existing holes under some rock or tree. What matters most to them when choosing their resting place is the security that it can provide. Thus, hibernation takes place in areas that are difficult to reach, although not necessarily remote, and sometimes can be very close to human populations.

Prior to hibernation bears have to feed enough in the late summer and falls months to increase their body fat reserves, reserves that are especially located around the kidneys and reach up to six inches thick. This is because the harsh conditions of nature in the winter months require extra in insulation. Bears hibernate because of the shortage of food and even water, which can be icy, and in addition low temperatures would require a higher than usual consumption of food to maintain body alone temperature.

Refugee seeking grizzly bears in their winter sleep curl up snuggly around themselves. Their body temperature drops from the usual 100°F to 90 to 91°F. Their pulse also decreases from 40 to 10 beats per minute and their breathing rate drops similarly. They fall into a deep sleep in which they do not urinate or defecate until they emerge in the spring.

Their winter habitats offer conditions are relatively pleasant compared to the harshness outside, sleeping in a nest made from leaf, moss and branches, all of which provide good conditions of thermal insulation and, together with the heat generated by the animal's own body, they keep the temperature within tolerable limits.

The time spent in the hibernation is usually one or two months, though this can be longer in colder climates. The bears with cubs remain in their dens along with their offspring for four months.

The grizzly bear is an omnivorous animal, with a marked vegetarian tendency. Staple foods are mainly herbaceous in spring, meaty fruits in summer and nuts in autumn and winter.

The place where a plant or animal lives is called its habitat. In the case of bears, it occurs in several different areas: the forest areas, the scrub and rocky and the grassy pastures in the mountains and even sometimes even the meadows of the lower part of a valley.

The small populations in many countries are subject to varying degrees of legal protection to protect them in their dwindling habitats. Internationally, the populations of Asian brown bears are listed in Annex I (total trade ban), the rest in Annex II (restricted trade). In some countries, this species enjoys a year-round or several-month closed season. In addition, multi-level management plans are implemented to protect bears and farm animals. In other countries, there is no or little legal protection for this species. According to the population, it is listed in Annex I (total trade ban) and Annex II (restricted trade) in the European Species Protection Regulation. Restricted hunting is allowed in the eastern range (Russia).

Furthermore, this subspecies is kept in many zoological facilities throughout Europe. However, for many of the brown bears kept in zoos, the information on the origin, and thus the exact subspecies status, is deficient, leading to an inconsistent lineage. In addition, there are several bear protection facilities, which have set the task of keeping former dance, circus and zoo bears as their task.

For reasons of species protection, few bears were reintroduced in the French Massif (where they were extinct in 1990, origin: Pyrenees) and in the Italian and Austrian Alps (origin: Slovenia). Some reintroduced bears fell victim to the poaching of local hunters.

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