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The brown bear occupies a uniquely contradictory place in human culture. The familiar teddy bear provides reassurance and comfort to millions of children all over the world, yet television documentaries portray graphic reconstructions of bear attacks on campers and hikers.

Our relationship with bears goes back thousands of years, to a time when early man painted images of bears on cave walls for religious and ceremonial purposes. Whilst never hated or persecuted to the same extent as wolves, human expansion and clearance of the great forests of Europe has significantly reduced bear populations and range, and today only a few remain in western Europe, and fragmentation and loss of habitat continues to threaten bears in their remaining strongholds in the Carpathian Mountains and the forests of north-eastern Europe.

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Brown bear - Photo Peter Cairns/northshots.com