Brief history of the extinction of bears in Spain

Middle Ages. Bears and other large fauna abundant through much of Spain . Contemporary accounts tell of travellers choosing not to travel at night for fear of being attacked by beasts. As in much of Europe, only nobles have the right to hunt bears.

Images from this site on Santa Maria la Real de Nieva

El Oso y el Madroño (The Bear and the Strawberry tree)

Bears were plentiful around Madrid - herein probably lies the origin of Madrid 's shield El Oso y el Madroño (The Bear and the Strawberry tree - a favourite morsel of bears in Spain ). The area around Madrid was known as Ursaria for some time. The Libro de Montería (Book of the Hunt by King Alfono XI states: Madrid , un buen lugar de puerco y oso ( Madrid a good place for swine and bear).

El Oso y el Madroño

  • 15th Century Pyrenees bear population still connected with Sistema Central, Montes de León, Zamora and Gredos. Bears still found in north of Sistema Ibérico in Cuenca .
  • Commoners given the right to kill bears, leading to massive decline.
  • 18th Century: Bears become extinct in Basque Country so breaking last link between Pyrenean and Cantabrian bears. Bears also now extinct in Central and Southern Spain
  • 19th century: Democratisation of firearms.
  • 1935. Around 200 bears still survive in the Pyrenees and Pre-Pyrenees.
  • 1952. Bear hunting banned in Spain for five years. Rise of poaching
  • 1954. Some 70 bears left in Pyrenees .
  • 1957. Legal bear hunting begins again in Spain . Hunting periodically banned and the relegalised in France (1949-1976)
  • 1960 Last bear steak offered in restaurant in French Pyrenees
  • 1962. Bears in Cordillera Cantábrica are separated into two populations. One estimate gives 77 in west and 15-16 bears in east.
  • 1967. Bear hunting finally banned in Spain
  • 1970. Some 40 bears left in Pyrenees
  • 1973 Total protection for bears in Spain
  • 1976. Total protection for bears in France .
  • 1979-81 25 bears killed by poachers in the Cordillera Cantábrica.
  • 1981. Estimate for Cordillera Cantábrica gives 82-103 in west and 29-41 bears in east
  • 1986. Bear strictly protected by Bern Convention. Poaching still a serious problem. First introduction programme of Balcan bears into French Pyrenees
  • Early 1990's just 80 bears left in the whole of the Cordillera Cantábrica.
  • 2005. Bears in the Pyrenees to all intents and purposes biologically extinct with a scattered population of 14-16 bears throughout the whole range, though may be artificially saved by polemical (on the Spanish side) introduction programme of Balkan bears into French Pyrenees. See Reintroduction of bears in Pyrenees. In contrast the situation of the bear in Cordillera Cantábrica is improving, at least in the "Western" sector (Eastern Cantabrian population at 25 individuals and Western at between 118 and 140 bears). See News on bears in Spain
  • Adapted from various sources including article here at FAPAS

(bear history spain, spain historical extinticion bear)

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