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Last Updated: Tuesday, 9 October 2007, 23:43 GMT 00:43 UK
How mother moose outwits the bear
Newborn moose (Wildlife Conservation Society)
Human pressures are changing the behaviour of moose mothers
Pregnant moose seek out human company when they are about to give birth, moving closer to roads and camps to escape the threat of bears.

US scientists say Yellowstone moose have adopted the strategy to try to outwit their road-shy predators.

The study in Biology Letters suggests human pressures are having unexpected effects on wild animals.

Other species, including monkeys, deer and elephants, have also been shown to use people as cover from predators.

Wildlife Conservation Society biologist and study author, Dr Joel Berger, said moose mothers were "using human infrastructure as a shield".

"The study's results indicate that moose and other prey species find humans more benign and hence move to humans for safety, whereas predators do not because we humans tend to be less kind to predators," he explained.

Danger zones

The study was carried out in the mountains in and around Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park.

Brown bear (Wildlife Conservation Society)
Road-shy brown bears can prey heavily on moose calves
Female moose and bears were tracked each year over the course of a decade from 1995. Researchers found that pregnant moose were moving an average of 122m (400ft) closer to roads each year to give birth.

Given that bears seldom venture within 500m (1,600ft) of roads, moose were effectively protecting their offspring from attack.

Dr Berger told the BBC: "Moose figure out very quickly where the danger zones are and how to buffer against them.

"If we're using our national parks to understand pristine conditions, the presence of humans is altering interactions in very subtle but important ways."

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