Study: Black bears can recognise humans, food in photos

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According to a study at Oakland University, a black bear can recognize both food and humans in pictures she is shown. The goal of the black bear research is to determine how they feel about their captive habitat. This study should give scientists a good idea what the black bears feel about their habitat, food, and surroundings. Before the study began, it was imperative for the researchers to find out if the bears could recognize both food and humans in pictures they were shown.

The research began with a black bear named Migwan. Because of injuries she sustained, Migwan was rescued from the wild at a young age. Migwan was trained with a set of items she had never seen, and then later she was shown pictures of these same two items. She was also shown pictures of food she regularly ate. The researchers then used the pictures first. After that, they showed her the real things.

This is how they discovered that Migwan recognized what she was seeing in the pictures. This research means that we can now find out the preferences of black bears. It gives us a great deal of knowledge about these bears. Maybe Yogi was right when he said he was smarter than the average bear.

“Bears can transfer learning with real objects to photographs of those objects presented on computer screens,” said Zoe Johnson-Ulrich from Oakland University.

“Because a lot of research with photographic stimuli uses familiar images, for example food or conspecifics, this is useful in suggesting that bears’ responses to these photographs may reflect behaviours towards real items,” said Jennifer Vonk from Oakland University.

The findings were published in the journal Animal Cognition.


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