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Hungry for more stories on science, culture and technology?Check out Brain Food: Insights and Discoveries from Northern Arizona. From ground breaking scientific research to global music projects, Brain Food profiles some of the unique projects happening in the region and the interesting people behind them. While there are no new episodes of Brain Food, we will continue to maintain the archive here.

Brain Food: Prehistoric Bison Kill Sites

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When bears raid campsites, it might be because of a relationship that developed thousands of years ago between humans and carnivores. That's what an archaeologist at Northern Arizona University believes. Chrissina Burke is looking at ancient bison kill sites to prove that wild animals have been conditioned to see humans as food providers. 

Burke says, "The research focuses is really focused on how do humans impact animals on the landscape. So, what I've been looking at in that context is how carnivores came in, saw, and said, 'Oh hey look! A smorgasbord. Free food!" 

From tooth marks on bison bones, Burke can identify what kinds of animals were gnawing on the carcasses. She believes mountain lions, grizzly bears and wolves were watching and waiting as early hunters did the work of bringing down the kill.

Credit Chrissina Burke

"Essentially, they would have come in and consume all that leftover food which is very similar to what they do today," Burke says. "They're in our neighborhoods killing our cats. We see black bears in garbage all the time. We see people in Yellowstone National Park in campgrounds having to deal with grizzly bears, and a lot of the time these animals are killed when they become too accustomed to humans because they've learned to trust us for food."

Burke believes her research will lead to a better understanding of the coexistence between humans and wild animals. She hopes to raise public awareness so people don't lure them to their campsites or neighborhoods with food.