Mystery virus causes bears to behave friendlier towards humans

Blackleaf

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Oct 9, 2004
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Daily Star:

A mystery virus infecting young black bears in the US states of California and Nevada makes the animals behave in a strangely friendly manner towards humans.

In one case a cute bear cub climbed fearlessly onto a snowboarder’s board at the Northstar resort near Lake Tahoe, showing none of the caution a wild animal would naturally show around humans.

But the bizarre condition, which vets believe is a type of viral encephalitis, is ultimately fatal. The condition, still un-named, has drawn comparisons with the “zombie virus” that causes strangely aggressive and uncoordinated behaviour in deer.

The disease is still rare in bears, says the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), but appears to be on the increase. A similar condition appears to have infected around 43 people in a province of Canada.


At least four cases have been confirmed in California in the past 12 months (Image: Getty Images)

In February, CDFW animal specialists responding to a call in El Dorado County, California found a bear too young to be out on its own, displaying “dog-like” behaviour.

The animal seemed completely comfortable around humans, and even picked up an apple and happily ate it in front of a group of people on their backyard patio.

Physically and mentally, said the CDFW team, the bear “didn’t seem quite right”, with a shambling walk and a dull, unresponsive manner.

As yet, the precise cause of the condition is not known. The affected bears have been found to be carrying around half a dozen viruses unknown to science, but which of any of those viruses could be causing the encephalitis is unknown.


 

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taxslave

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Nov 25, 2008
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Vancouver Island
Not sure how much of this is supposed to April Fools but bears are quite capable of being habituated. Of course citiots would not likely know about important things like this unless it was on their twitter feed.