The last few weeks our neighborhood has enjoyed visits by a number of black bears, including a mother with three cubs. Here they are in the back yard of a friend who lives two houses down. Aren’t they cute!
Of course, my next door neighbors have taken in their bird feeders (which may have been what attracted the bears) and we’re all being careful about sending our kids out to play right now, but no one is seriously worried. Under normal circumstances, black bears aren’t aggressive. My family and I have had a few encounters with them while camping and each time they shambled away from us. Though obviously a mother with cubs should always be treated with caution!
There haven’t been any wild bears in England since the Middle Ages. However, Regency folk might have seen captive bears in menageries or at various events. Bear baiting (tormenting a chained bear with dogs, etc…) was waning in popularity by the Regency. Many people had recognized by then what a degrading sport it was, however it was not made illegal until 1835.
I don’t think I’ve read anything about bears in a Regency. One could perhaps imagine a hero or heroine freeing an abused bear, but that really could be way too Disney (there was just such a scene in the Pocahontas sequel). Though it could be amusing to picture the havoc caused by a bear running loose in some genteel locale, sadly I doubt it would end well for the poor bear.