Bears are Social Animals
Bears have been considered solitary animals for centuries only because they do not live in herds, flocks, or schools. However, as our understanding of behavior grows we continue to redefine what it is to be social. With this has come a new understanding of and appreciation for social behavior in bears.
Bears communicate with verbal and body language to illustrate intent and to ask for compliance. They utter specific sounds that have specific meanings, and will use that sound to communicate the same meaning the next time it’s relevant, much the same as we do with words. Bears may utter more than one sound consecutively - like a sentence – to expand on their meaning. They naturally augment their verbal communication with physical demonstrations to further convey meaning. Unrelated bears will share food resources, but frequently ask for permission to do so from those already at the site. They also share olfactory and visual information with each other, using trees as signposts by rubbing, scratching, and biting on them; these trees are fervently checked by neighbors. They may not live close to each other as chimpanzees do, but they are social at a distance. The extent of the complexity of their social relationships is largely unexplored, but anecdotal literature observations of captive bears suggest that their ability to collaborate socially is considerable. Poulsen 2014
Wildlife biologist Andrew Derocher describes polar bear social cognition as different from human cognition: “If we do not see or hear another human, we assume we are alone. A polar bear is never really alone if it can smell another bear”. Derocher 2012 This also holds true for other bear species.