I like bears. Who doesn’t like bears? They’re great big majestic monsters.

And for most of human history, they have been feared, despised, taboo to even speak about. Allegedly, some languages outright replaced the original word for bear with a euphemism for them.

But then society progressed. Bears aren’t that dangerous anymore. Well, they’re dangerous, sure. Polar bears, at least, will still hunt humans. But we’re prepared for that stuff. They’re not like tigers that often actively seek out to harm people. Bears stay away at almost all costs and attack us to defend their kids.

We’ve reduced their territory so much that they keep running into us, even by accident. We’ve reduced their population so much that they’re endangered, isolated, and often desperate.

The fearsome mighty beasts that once reigned supreme on five continents are have dwindled so much we have to reach out to protect them. Six of eight species are vulnerable or endangered. And even so, they’re hunted for sport, bred and killed for traditional medicine, trafficked as exotic pets which is one of the most insane things I’ve ever heard of. If we aren’t extremely careful, we’ll end up losing these animals altogether.

So it’s probably a good thing they’re so strangely cute.

We make stuffed teddy bear dolls. We make bear mascots for sports teams. We have sentient bear furries in our fantasy series. The panda is outright the national animal of China. They’re constantly in our minds, one of the “main animals in the world.” A mainstay of pop culture, included in every zoo.

If bears weren’t so lovable and cute from afar, would they even still exist? Or would they be like wolves, driven to extinction all over the world? Or snakes, feared and loathed in nearly every culture? If they weren’t such a big part of modern pop culture, would conservation efforts be as high as they are?

I’m glad they’re still around, though. I couldn’t bear a world without them.

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