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Learning about Black Bears

Most of us are afraid of meeting a bear in the wild. Lynn Rogers certainly isn't. Find out more about this unusual man below.

OK, I admit it – I’m scared. I’ve been walking for two hours through a spooky forest in northern Minnesota with bear biologist Dr Lynn Rogers, following the beeping radio signals of a female black bear and her three cubs. It’s a hot July morning and the bugs are beginning to hit us hard.

[1]Lynn has been interested in bears since childhood. He grew up in what Midwesterners call the ‘Northwoods’ – a huge band of mixed forest that sweeps across the northern states of the USA. As a child he also heard many scary stories about bears, but as he spent more time outside he began to question these tales.

[2]After leaving college over 40 years ago, Lynn began studying bears for the US Forest Service. At that time little was known about their biology. Unlike their polar and grizzly cousins, black bears prefer dense forest and so are hard to observe in the wild.

[3]For an incredible two decades, he persisted with these standard methods, until one day, he'd had enough and made a momentous decision. He decided to move away from convention and he made it his aim to try to work directly with the bears.

[4]One of the assumptions that has long been made by wildlife managers is that feeding bears makes them aggressive towards humans. So a lot of time and effort is spent trying to keep bears out of campsites, and if they won't stay away then they often end up shot.

[5]Bear experts warned him that it was both wrong and dangerous to do this. But, over time, some bears learned to associate Lynn's voice with food and allowed him to approach to within a few metres of them. After more than a year of fighting convention in this way, he finally gained the trust of a few bears. They even allowed him to feed them by hand and stroke their fur. Then once they'd had a few handfuls of nuts from him, they'd ignore him and behave naturally.


[6]As a result, he has begun to paint the first accurate and intimate portrait of the life history of these animals. For the first time, a scientist has been able to directly observe bear habitat use, language, social relationships and individual personalities.


A It takes only a few hours in Lynn's charismatic, bear-like company to understand why he found this goal easier to achieve than most other people would. He puts it down to the fact that he was aided by the remoteness of his study site and the fact that his nearest boss was more than 350 km away. So he was able to break with conventional approaches without interference.

BGetting bears used to his touch eventually allowed Lynn to fit radio-collars on them without using tranquilisers. Working against the advice of most bear experts, he had achieved what no other human had dreamed possible. He had earned the trust of wild bears and so won the first ringside seat from which to observe their natural behaviour.

C As we go deeper into bear territory, I realise that Lynn resembles the bears he studies. His huge frame moves silently through the forest, aided by hands as large as paws. As he listens to the bear's signal with an antenna, he grunts and murmurs in a deep, gravelly voice.

DYet this wild bear, One-eyed Jack, who had no reason to be friendly to humans, silently allowed Lynn to stroke his fur and touch his claws while investigating his wounds. That moment spoke volumes about both Lynn j and the true nature of black bears.

EWhen he started in that job, Lynn did what all other bear scientists did: he tranquilised the animals at their dens or in traps and fitted them with radio-collars. Once a bear was collared, the only data that he could collect, via an aircraft or vehicle, was its position. The bears would not allow anyone to approach them in the forest. As Lynn says, "After many years of research, all we had were dots on

F Lynn decided to test this golden rule' and began taking food into the forest when looking for his collared bears - the ultimate no-no. He'd follow their signs, get as close as he dared and then leave a pile of nuts for them.

G He found that animals that had a reputation for being dangerous ran away from him, while gentler ones could be tempted to take treats from his hand. These early experiences made a lasting impression and he decided to become a bear biologist.


Exercise 3.You are going to read an extract from a magazine article. Six paragraphs have been removed from the extract. Choose from the paragraphs A-G the one which fits each gap (1-6). There is one extra paragraph which you do not need to use.

Conserving Jaguars

An interesting plan to help jaguars survive is being developed in Latin America. Mel White reports for National Geographic.

At dusk one evening, deep in a Costa Rican forest, a young male jaguar rises from his sleep, stretches, and silently but determinedly leaves forever the place where he was born.

[1] But the wanderer chooses the wrong direction. In just a few miles he reaches the edge of the forest; beyond lies a coffee plantation. Pushed by instinct and necessity, he keeps moving, staying in the trees along fences and streams. Soon, though, shelter consists only of scattered patches of shrubs and a few trees, where he can find nothing to eat. He's now in a land of cattle ranches, and one night his hunger and the smell of a newborn calf overcome his reluctance to cross open areas. Creeping close before a final rush, he kills the calf.

[2]This story has been played out thousands of times throughout the jaguar's homeland, stretching from Mexico (and formerly the United States) to Argentina. In recent decades it's happened with even greater frequency, as ranching, farming, and development have eaten up half the big cat's prime habitat, and as humans have destroyed its natural prey in many areas of remaining forest.


[3]Rabinowitz is the world's leading jaguar expert, and he has begun to realise his dream of creating a vast network of interconnected corridors and refuges extending from the U.S.-Mexico border into South America. It is known as Paseo del Jaguar — Path of the Jaguar.

[4]Rabinowitz hopes to convince national governments throughout the jaguar's range to support this conservation program through enlightened land-use planning, such as choosing non-critical areas for major developments and road construction.


[5]Talking to governments and bringing Paseo del Jaguar into existence will take many years. Rabinowitz is currently focusing on Mexico and Central America, where officials in all eight countries have approved the project. Costa Rica has already incorporated protection of the corridor into laws regulating development.

[6]Today even mobile-phone-carrying government ministers sitting in urban offices feel what Rabinowitz calls "a powerful cultural thread binding them to their ancestors. Nobody can say that the jaguar is not part of their own heritage. What better unifying symbol can there be than the jaguar?"

AAlan Rabinowitz wants this situation to stop and is doing something about it. He imagines that the young jaguar, when he leaves his birthplace, will pass unseen by humans through a near-continuous corridor of sheltering vegetation. Within a couple of days he'll find a small tract of forest harboring enough prey for him to stop and rest a day or two before resuming his trek. Eventually he'll reach a national park or wildlife preserve where he'll find a home, room to roam, plenty of prey, females looking for a mate.

В Later he'll tackle South America, where landscapes are more diverse and challenging. Rabinowitz is encouraged, though, by his audiences' emotional response when he talks about jaguars — a response based on the animal's enduring aura of beauty, strength, and mystery. Indigenous peoples around Mexico's central plateau, and the Maya, farther south, incorporated the jaguar into their art and mythology.

СEnvironmentalists consider such a scheme the best hope for keeping this great New World cat from joining lions and tigers on the endangered species list.

DThe jaguar is the only large, wide-ranging carnivore in the world with no subspecies. Simply put, this means that for millennia jaguars have been mingling their genes throughout their entire range, so that individuals in northern Mexico are identical to those in southern Brazil.


E There's shelter here, and plenty of food. He has sensed, too, the presence of females with which he might mate. But there's also a mature male jaguar that claims the forest — and the females. The older cat will tolerate no rivals. The breeze-blown scent of the young male's mother, so comforting to him when he was a cub, no longer binds him to his home.

F"We're not going to ask them to throw people off their land or to make new national parks," he said. The habitat matrix could encompass woodlands used for a variety of human activities from timber harvest to citrus plantations. Studies have shown that areas smaller than one and a half square miles can serve as temporary, one- or two-day homes — stepping-stones — for wandering jaguars.

G The next day the rancher finds the remains and the telltale tracks of a jaguar. He calls some of his neighbors and gathers a pack of dogs. The hunters find the young male and take their revenge.

Exercise 4.You are going to read an extract from a magazine article. Six paragraphs have been removed from the extract. Choose from the paragraphs A-G the one which fits each gap (1-6). There is one extra paragraph which you do not need to use.

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