Studies indicate that bears more than likely see around as well together humans, but trust their sense of smell more

There space a most misconceptions about bears. “Grizzly bears can’t climb trees,” or “bears can’t run downhill” – both untrue. One typical misconception is that bears have negative eyesight. The reasons behind this misconception space understandable, yet evidence indicates that bears’ eyesight is comparable to ours. “From my experience bears can see very well in ~ a distance, at least as well as humans,” stated biologist take care of Reynolds.

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Reynolds is a be afflicted with biologist for the room of Fish and also Game in Fairbanks and serves as president of the global Association because that Bear Research and also Management. He’s worked with bears because that 45 years. Reynolds and another biologist once observed a big adult masculine grizzly that had actually killed and also was eating a 2-year-old grizzly in the west Brooks Range.

“It was late September and also the ground to be snow-covered when we peeked simply our heads over a ridge that was a quarter-mile far-off from the bears,” he said. “The adult male immediately stopped what he was doing, stared ours direction, and ran – and kept ~ above running till he was the end of sight. If there was a wind the was only slight, and also I don"t remind it being at our backs. We were very aware that bears’ very perceptive feeling of smell, yet from the evidence accessible to us at the time, it appeared most most likely that the bear to be alerted through its eyesight.”

Zookeeper Lee Huntsman operates a privately owned pet park just south that Cleveland, Ohio. He has 240 pets – 60 different varieties – consisting of black bears and also Syrian bears, a sort of oriental grizzly. He’s operated with 30 various bears end the previous 10 years.

“We advanced them native babies, and when they view a details person, lock react differently than they do to an additional person,” Huntsman said. “They respond to the civilization that feeding them, and also not others. And it’s no that they watch the feed bucket, they recognize the people. They can see in detail. They have an excellent vision, and also I’d to speak they have the right to recognize a particular person native 200 feet away.”

Huntsman claimed bears also see well in short light conditions. “I have the right to go up in ~ night and also they have the right to see me plainly; I have the right to tell because of the way they react. I definitely think they check out well at night.”

Like many animals, bears’ eyes have actually a reflective layer called the tapetum lucidum lining the ago of the eyeball. This layer shows light earlier through the retina, allowing light to stimulate light-sensitive cells in the retina a 2nd time, thereby enhancing night vision. This is what gives dogs, cats and also many nocturnal pets that distinct, glowing eyeshine as soon as they are flashed v a light at night.

Polar bears have special adaptations that aid them to check out underwater. Like many other maritime mammals, they have actually a clean inner “eyelid” referred to as a nictitating membrane that protects your eyes and also serves together a 2nd lens when they space underwater.

John Hechtel has spent decades observing bear in the wild and studying behavior, hibernation, and bear and also human interactions. A state biologist in Palmer, he’s operated with bear throughout and also the Yukon. Hechtel emphasized that just like with people, over there is variation among bears.

“How numerous humans really have 20/20 eyesight? there’s a significant variation, nearsighted or farsighted, and also with boosting age, sensory abilities diminish in general. Eyesight has tendency to acquire worse, hearing is no so great any more, and it’s probably comparable with animals,” the said. “In general, your eyesight – for young healthy and balanced bears – often tends to it is in pretty good. Over there is a fair amount written about how bad their eyesight is, but I nothing think so.”

From his experiences, Hechtel has actually the impression that seeing silhouette and also movement is an essential part of bears’ street vision. Over there isn’t a the majority of research ~ above the subject of be afflicted with vision, Hechtel said, and stories selection from incidents where bear see very well to stories whereby bears seem virtually blind.

“For now, bear biologists have tendency to say that bears’ eyesight is similar to the of people. That doesn’t mean bears essentially see the way we do. I suspect, in some ways they see better – night vision, because that example, and in some means maybe worse, prefer distant, non-moving objects. The suggest is that bears no wandering around half-blind. And they are much much more focused ~ above interpreting the world based on smell than sight.”


Hechtel said many misconceptions around bears room born of restricted experience and assumptions. A human will assume that because a bear didn’t respond to them, the didn’t know they were there. That bear may have smelled the human being – and saw them – long prior to the human was mindful of the bear.

“A most times bears view things and don’t visibly reaction by standing increase or fleeing,” Hechtel said. “That doesn’t mean it didn’t see. World expect bears to react when they check out something, and that’s not always the case.”

Biologists stress that by far, bears’ keenest feeling is their sense of smell. Hechtel said also when a be affected by each other does obtain a an excellent look at something, it still likes to check it v its nose. Hechtel thinks that’s contributed to the misconception about bears’ eyesight. Bears room so well informed about their environment due to the fact that of their sense of smell that they don’t appear to put much emphasis on your vision. Bears trust their noses an ext than their eyes, simply as human beings trust your vision more than their sense of smell.

“We rely so lot on our eyes,” stated state game biologist Phil Mooney of Sitka. “I don’t think bears think like we do. They nothing think in terms of their eyes. If you walking with grass flats and also a be affected by each other stands up, that using every one of its senses.”

Larry Aumiller is the manager of the McNeil river State video game Sanctuary. Because that 28 years, he’s invested summers with brown bear at the sanctuary, 180 mile southwest that Anchorage. The recalled an incident one spring whereby a large adult masculine was following a female in estrus.

Aumiller wrote: “He to be trying to keep up through her until she was receptive. She, no being rather ready, to be trying to stay ahead of him. This is dubbed consorting, and eventually end in mating when all parties space ready. The male typically puts his nose to the ground, and no matter what, adheres to her precise footsteps. On this particular day her trip took her on a path that double back, bringing she to in ~ 100 feet of the follow male. That glanced over at her, put his nose back to the ground and continued ~ above her specific trail (scent) even though it took him numerous hundred yards out of his way. This is a great example that a be affected by each other trusting his sense of smell much more than his vision.”

In Aumiller’s experience, he thinks bears check out on a par with human beings up to about 120 yards, and beyond the their vision fall off. He’s found it’s simple to stalk a be affected by each other at longer distances, particularly if you space careful around using cover and also disguising movement.

“You can approach a be affected by each other at ranges that would never ever work v a food species, for instance a deer. This renders sense if you think around it, the “distance of concern” because that a be afflicted with is significantly less 보다 100 yards. Bear have developed to be pertained to only v - and also react come - stimuli in ~ their an individual space, which varies of course (smaller for more dominate bears) but is generally around 100 to 200 yards. This fits with being a predator as opposed to a food species, as well as being the biggest, baddest man on the block.”

“They deserve to see an extremely well in ~ night, far far better than humans,” the added. “Remember the exemption of course, the bear that spotted you at 400 yards, and also the one you walked best up come in the open - and also at 40 feet it ultimately did view you and came unglued. Yet these room rare exceptions.”

Hechtel said over time, ours insights must get much better as scientists address some the the unanswered questions regarding bear vision.

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“Who knows exactly what bears are seeing,” Hechtel said. “The amazing thing around studying bear is it’s a fairly brand-new field. The span of extreme bear study has just been a couple of decades. There space still a many cool points to understand about bears.”

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