While I know that bears and wolves can be scared off by, say, a burning stick, wouldn't they also know that a fire indicates there are humans who either have food or might be eaten themselves?


1 Answer 1


No, not necessarily. In the wild, fires are commonly caused by lightning and other natural causes, rather than by humans and are a cause for alarm rather than "food".

Having said that, there is the chance, for food from animals fleeing the fire and once the fire has passed from animals that are wounded. There are even animals, such as the Australian firehawks (actually 3 species), that have learned how to pick up burning sticks and spread fire, so as to get more prey. From the Australian Geographic link above:

According to the study, these firehawks— the back kite, whistling kite, and brown falcon— pick up smoldering grass and sticks from raging bushfires and transport them up to a kilometre away.

“The imputed intent of raptors is to spread fire to unburned locations – for example, the far side of a watercourse, road, or artificial break created by firefighters – to flush out prey via flames or smoke,” the researchers explained.

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    Not only do animals not associate fire with humans, they do not generally associate humans with food. Most are frightened of humans and avoid them. We know this because those that do associate humans with food are called "habituated" and are considered problem animals. Mar 9, 2022 at 16:19
  • @DJClayworth: but we do know of lions, wolves and bear that have attacked and eaten humans and in some cases, ironically usually the animal is sick, actively look for humans to eat. And so would such an animal understand that a fire meant a human was probably around? I suspect yes, just as I think even a stray dog or kitten might come to the house of stranger -- they know humans by their artifacts.
    – releseabe
    Mar 9, 2022 at 20:32
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    @releseabe That's exactly my point. Most predators are not attracted to humans, and the few that are are dangerous. Mar 9, 2022 at 20:33
  • @DJClayworth: I am just interested specifically if fire is something predators understand usually indicates man or even if a smarter predator like a bear might see ashes and burnt wood and conclude that a human is nearby. I would not be surprised if a bear could figure this out and so maybe people have learned to cover up the remains of fires to avoid having bears tracking them.
    – releseabe
    Mar 9, 2022 at 20:37

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