Some bear cubs in California developing mysterious illness that makes them friendly, unafraid of humans


SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) — Some black bear cubs in California are reportedly developing an unexplained illness in which they exhibit “dog-like” behavior and are rather friendly and not afraid of people.

According to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, the agency picked up a female black bear cub in February displaying this kind of behavior. The cub was found east of Sacramento in Pollock Pines.

Officials said the young bear was underweight and had moved into a residential backyard where it was comfortable around people, occasionally picking up apples and eating them in front of the residents on their patio.

While the cub didn’t respond to people clapping or yelling, it did jump into a housekeeper’s open car trunk, CDFW said.

This mysterious behavior was first identified in 2014, according to the CDFW. Other bears displaying the same behavior tiled their heads and walked irregularly.

In 2019, a snowboarder captured video of a bear with this kind of behavior.

Five new viruses have been identified in these sick bears, but scientists don’t know whether they are linked to the symptoms, the department said.

In the past year, four bears with these symptoms have been brought to authorities, the CDFW said, adding that the situation was becoming “more common in the Tahoe Basin and elsewhere around the state.”

One bear was spotted in Humboldt County, while others have been spotted on the Nevada side of Lake Tahoe.

Bears with this neurological condition cannot survive in the wild, and some, like the young black bear who hugged the snowboarder, have been placed in wildlife care facilities and zoos, the CDFW said.

The small bear picked up in Pollock Pines was euthanized.

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