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Brown bears in Spain news Updated news archive about bears in Spain

Photo of brown bear by Xavi Vicient.









Bears in the Pyrenees - Bears in the Cordillera Cantabrica







Latest news from February 2007 are now posted here on the blog

Spain bear news 2006

November-December 2006

11/12 Good autumn sends bears to sleep on a full stomach (Nueva España)

02/12/2006 Galician bears and honey

Following on from news of possible return of bear to Galicia, here's a photo of an alveriza (known as cortines in Asturias). These old constructions were built to protect beehives from bears. Note, the hives were positioned together to capture the maximum amount of sunlight. Photo from here. More on bears and bees. Christmas present idea. Fapas in Asturias will install your very own sponsered unprotected beehive so bears can gorge on it. 413 sponsered so far. 57 euros here.

12/11/2006. Diary of a bear tracker Brief desciption of tracking bears in Proeza, Asturias by Fapas. The area is the only possibility of linking the two bear populations in the Cordillera Cantabrica, currently separated by 40 km. 11 bears have been tracked in Proeza in the last three years, including a female which is rasing two cubs here. By Fapas here

30/11 Galicia wants bear back. Last resident bear killed in 1946, but several have been popping in recently (Fapas)

26/11/2006 More bears in the Cordillera Cantábrica.

This year's bear cub census by the Fundación Oso Pardo "seems to indicate that the bear is moving back towards viability in the Cordillera Cantábrica". Between 24 and 26 bears were born in the western sector and five in the eastern sector, totalling 31, one more than than 30 born last year. Four more bear cubs are to be confirmed, giving a total of 35. At least three cubs were killed by their mothers. There has also been a huge decline in illegal wild boar snares found in the area (189 in 2004, 32 so far this year). Not all good news though, some bears are still being injured by snares and a bear was also found poisoned this year in Somiedo, The quality of the above graphic of cubs raised (1989-2006) is not very clear but you'll get the idea of the rise. The estimated population is now some 160 individuals. (LNE) More on bears

October 2006

  • 26/10/2006 Western Cantabrian bear population continues to rise in 2006 with an estimated 12 females giving birth to 24 cubs (ambientum)
25/10/2006 Russian newspaper claims King of Spain Shoots a Drunken Bear Dead

King of Spain Juan Carlos I, who was on a visit to Russia in August, has killed a domesticated bear, as Sergey Starostin, deputy head of Vologda Region's Hunting Grounds Preservation Department, reported to Vologda Governor Vyacheslav Pozgalev. What is more, the king made the bear drunk. Juan Carlos I visited Vologda Region in late August. The king and his retinue stayed at the House of the Wood Grouse recreation zone near the village of Limonovo. The place had earlier welcomed celebrities as film director Nikita Mikhalkov, Russian Emergency Situations Minister Sergey Shoigu and former Finance Minister Mikhail Zadornov. The Spanish guest did not make a secret of the fact that he had come to that middle of nowhere only because of hunting. Two months after the visit, details of the royal hunting have leaked.

"An abominable performance accompanied the hunting of King of Spain Juan Carlos," Starostin tells Vologda Regions's government in a letter. "The party 'sacrificed' a good-humored and jolly bear called Mitrofan who had been kept at a farm in the village of Novlenskoye. The bear was put in a cage and taken to the place of hunting. Afterwards, the party made him drunk with vodka mixed with honey, and pushed him out to the field. Quite naturally, the massive drunken animal became an easy target. His Majesty Juan Carlos killed Mitrofan with one shot." From kommersant Russia's Daily online and found on


  • 30/09 France to release two more bears in Pyrenees in 2006. Photo of Franksa, currently in Ordesa, one of the four surviving bears released in 2006 (Diario de Navarra)

Cantabrian brown bears and carrion

30/07/2006 This month's print edition of Quercus, Spain's best wildlife magazine, has an article by FAPAS on the importance of carrion for Cantabrian brown bears. As a result of the mad cow's crisis, in 2001 EU passed a law forcing all dead sheep, cows and pigs to be destroyed. Prior to this some 17,000 animals were left every year in the Spanish countryside, a vital resource for wildlife. While birds (vultures and other carrion eaters) have been saved form the worse effects by the setting up of cordoned-off feeding stations with controlled corpses, no help has been given to mammals. Carrion is a vital food source for Cantabrian brown bears, particularly in winter and early spring when other foods are scarce. Unlike other bears, Cantabrian bears hardly ever attack live animals. Here a a Somiedo bear tucks into a mule (?), exempt from the Mad Cow rule.

Somiedo bear (Fapas)

July: Spain bear news 2006

16/07 400,000-year-old cave bear (Ursus deningeri) DNA recovered from Atapuerca, opening the prospect of finding DNA of human ancestors old than current record of 100,000 years. (La Nueva España) from Royal Society's Biology Letters " We present a cladistic analysis using DNA recovered from 400kyr old U. deningeri remains, which demonstrates U. deningeri 's relation to Ursus spelaeus . This study extends the limits of recovery from skeletal remains by almost 300kyr. Plant material from permafrost environments has yielded DNA of this age in earlier studies, and our data suggest that DNA in teeth from cave environments may be equally well preserved" More Prehistory and palaeontology in Spain

06/06 GPS and electric fences for flocks to proteect against bears in Pyrenees. Flocks are attacked 2-3 times a year, especially in spring (El Periodico)

April-May 2006

30 bear cubs born in Cordillera Cantabrica

Thirty bear cubs were born in the Cordillera Cantabrica in 2005, the highest figure for at least 20 years. 24 were born in the Western Sector to 12 females. This area now covers some 2,100 km2, compared with 2,100km for the Eastern Sector. The population in the former has been rising at 7.5% a year and is now considered as viable by most experts.Six of the cubs were born in the much-maligned eastern Cantabrian population of bears, the highest for 15 years, and double the average for the period. Three females gave birth to three, two and one cub, respectively. Five cubs were born in 2003 and two in 2004. Treinta oseznos nacieron el pasado año en la Cordillera, la mayor cifra en 20 años (Nuevo España).

Bears in the Pyrenees: France releases Slovenian bear in Pyrenees

France has imported a female brown bear from Slovenia and released it into the Pyrenees despite opposition from local farmers to try and build up the dwindling bear population. "Palouma", as the bear is called, was released on Tuesday night, 24 hours after it was captured in Slovenia and transported to France in a small truck. It was the first of five bears due to be set free before June 15 in the mountains that divide France and Spain as part of a plan to boost numbers. Between 14 and 18 brown bears are thought to be left in the Pyrenees and there is a shortage of females. Around 150 police officers backed up by a helicopter were on hand for the event which had to be delayed after protestors blocked the first attempted release. Farmers and some local residents are worried the bears will attack their animals. Ecology Minister Nelly Olin said the behaviour of the protestors was "imbecile and irresponsible" but she said help was on hand for farmers. "I understand completely the worry of the farmers and shepherds and so with the agriculture ministry we have put in place a certain number of plans including the possibility of having their flocks watched," Olin told LCI Television on Wednesday. One of the existing bears, Boutxy, is accused by farmers of having killed three sheep since the end of March. Boutxy, a male, is the son of a Slovenian bear released in the Pyrenees in 1996 and killed a year later by a hunter. The World Wildlife Fund conservation group estimates that brown bears are responsible for the deaths of less than 1 percent of sheep that die each year in the Pyrenees. "At least 80 percent of what they eat is vegetarian and the the rest is meat, that can be dead animals, some wild animals and a few sheep," said Olivier Hernandez, who is responsible for the large carnivores programme at WWF-France. He said around 150 to 300 sheep are killed by bears each year in the Pyrenees From Reuters here (26-04-06)

Second bear released (Mañana Digital 29-04)

See also below Brown bears to return to Pyrenees + Bears in Catalonia in 2005 + more

March - spain bear news 2006

Interview with Guillermo Palomero, President of Fundación Oso Pardo here. Details in English when I get round to it.

Ski station threat to brown bears in the Cordillera Cantabrica

Mike Stuart has sent me this piece on the threat of the proposed ski station to bears in the Cordillera Cantabrica

The proposed project to build a ski station by the San Glorio pass in the Cordillera Cantabrica, first submitted in 2003, is ongoing and still causing a major threat to the survival of the brown bears in the area just when their numbers are slowly growing. On the 28th of March a Green party MEP based in Valencia, David Hammerstein, took the matter to the European Parliament to state the case against the proposal, particularly the illegality of building a ski station in an area protected by the Red Natura 2000, since when the EU has asked the Spanish authorities to ensure that the habitats and species of the Cordillera would not be adversely affected. For more information visit;

There are already two ski resorts, Alto Campo and San Isidro , servicing the populations of Santander , Oviedo and León. The project for the San Glorio pass is seen as being unsustainable due to its' relatively low altitude and proximity of the Atlantic causing uncertain snow conditions. Downhill skiers in the know head for either the Pyrenees or the Alps .

Apart from the destruction of this mountain environment, capercaillie and river trout are also under threat. As with the bears, the corridor linking the eastern and western population pockets would be lost.

Environmental reports are still being prepared and signatures being taken by the Plataforma en Defensa de San Glorio;

Mike runs what looks like a rather nice guest house here: (he didn't ask for the plug, but he's getting one anyway) Read Lisa and Mike's thing on the Picos de Europa here on iberianature

Bears in Catalonia in 2005

The Generalitat has issued a report on the presence of bears in Catalonia during 2005. Between 9 and 11 bears inhabit the Central Pyrenees , and periodically wander into Catalonia . Its main conclusions:

  • Livestock owners were compensated for the predation of 12 livestock (cows and sheep) in the Val 'Aran and 25 beehives in Val d'Aran and Pallars Sobirà
  • In addition to money spent on compensation, fencing and habitat improvement, 8 specially trained dogs were given to livestock owners.
  • In there were 2005, 58 records of bears in Catalonia (43 in Val d'Aran, 12 in Pallars Sobirà, 1 in Pallars Jussà and 2 in l'Alta Ribagorça). 28 attacks, 15 tracks and excrements, 11 sightings, 1 photo and clots of hair.
  • Possible presence of bear with a cub.

The report has a detailed breakdown of the 15-17 bears in the Pyrenees:

  • Western Pyrenees 4 males (2 autochthonous, 1 introduced, and 1 male of mixed parentage).
  • Central Pyrenees (Val d'Aran and Pallars Sobirà (Catalonia), North East Aragon, France ( l'Ariège, l'Haute Garonne and Hautes Pyrénées) 9-11 adult bears (+cubs). See also Brown bear attacks cow herd in Vall de Arán
  • Eastern Pyrenees ( Andorra , Eastern l'Ariège, l'Aude and Pyrénées Orientales) 2 males. See also Reintroduction of bears in Pyrenees (latest details)

Full report here in Catalan including description of each ane every bear and their parentage: Seguiment de l'ós a Catalunya Thanks to Juan Carlos of Juan Carlos Fernandez of Grupo Aves Exoticos de Catalonia for sending me this news.

Latest estimate puts Cantabrian Brown Bear population at 170. Not all good news though.

The population is divided between 140 in Western section and 25-30 in Eastern. The great Spanish biologist Miguel Delibes warned that despite the evident rise, the population will not be viable until there are "several hundred" - probably 500. Asturias only has a 25% forest coverage, the lowest for any existing bear region in Europe (other bear areas have more than 50% forest coverage). Habitat improvement here is therefore key. Another problem is that of infrastructures. Jon Swenson, vice-president for the Eurasia of the IBA (International Bear Association), noted that the effect of a skit station would cause the same effect as a town of 3,000 inhabitants. (See above Ski station threat to brown bears) Bears would keep at least 10km away form such facilities

Also Cantabrian brown bears are the most genetically distinct sub population of all brown bears in the world . El oso pardo cantábrico es único en el mundo por su genética (Nueva España)

Bears in Spain : Bears to return to French Pyrenees

France is to release five Slovenian bears to North of Val d’Aran and Monte Perdido. The original plan was to release 15 animals, and doubling at a stroke the entire Pyrenean population, but the fears of farmers and livestock owners, particularly on the Spanish side, has led to a more gradual approach. The opposition in the Spanish Pyrenees is in stark contrast to the bear loving Asturans and Cantabrians, where the animal is proudly seen as a sign of regional identity. Bear experts from the Cordillera Cantabrica note that the same arguments now raging across the villages of the Pyrenees were held 20 years ago in the Coridllera Cantabrica, during the campaign to save the bear there. The bears will be released between April and June in part to replace the three bears release between 1996 and 1997 -Melba, Claude and Cannelle- which were killed by hunters. The places chosen sensibly are municipalities which have been favourably to the reintroduction: Arbas, Bagnèresde-Luchon and Burgalays (Alt Garona), and Bagnères-de-Bigorre (Alts Pirineos), to the north of Val d´Aran and Monte Perdido in Spain, respectively.

The bears will be followed by a French team made up of a biologist, a vet and three assistants. This is only the start of the reintroduction programme as at the area will need at least 100 bears to be anything like viable. There are currently 10-12 animals in the Eastern Pyrenees and another 4-5 in the western part of the chain. Opposition means this will be done gradually. The French government notes that not a single person has been killed by a bear in the last 150 years in the Pyrenees.

Measures in favour of brown bears in the Pyrenees. The Spanish government has taken a series of measures to guarantee the protection of bears in the Pyrenees. This follows the upcoming release of five Slovenian bears this spring. Much of the work involves establishing permanent contact between the Spanish regions affected (Navarra, Aragon and Catalonia), Andorra and France More here
Various sources: including Fapas here

More Spanish bear news

  • La Fundación Oso Pardo removes 545 snares over the last 6 years in Asturias. 430 were in Cangas del Narcea. The traps are put down chiefly to capture wild boar- which is frequently an agricultural pest- but can and do trap, harm and kill bears
  • Asturias studies crossing Paca and Tola. Asturias now has a scientific study of the procedures for mating 'Paca' and 'Tola' (see below). The plan is first to use foreign bear sperm to check that they are fertile. If affirmative, they would then be by impregnated with a Cantabrian male (the problem there is currently no captive male). The bear brought to Asturias for the task would have to be docile to ensure it doesn't attack the much-loved pair, and who have never seen a male. I am a little confused by this news as I thought the plan was to artificially inseminate them. More on Paca and Tola here below

February news 2006

Brown bears in Spain : February round-up

- Leon approves corridor for brown bear between Somiedo and Degaña. 500,000 euros to be spent on improving habitat and food sources (oak, wild apple, holly, etc.) over 75 ha. Money comes from compensatory fund agreed by Fundación Oso Pardo and the Diputación de Leon, resulting from the building of the ski station. León aprueba un ´corredor´ para el oso pardo entre Somiedo y Degaña. (VozdeAsturias)

- Interview with Guillermo Palomero President of the Fundación Oso Pardo. "No conozco que hayan muerto personas en la historia reciente, y eso que aquí cohabitan con el hombre. Pero sí se registran sustos, de uno a tres al año, sobre todo de hembras con crías, y en los últimos 20 años dos personas resultaron heridas. El oso va a huir, pero en ciertas circunstancias puede morder, aunque no se ceban" . Here (Diario Montanes)

- Poison threatens breeding chances of brown bear. Use of poison and snare is aimed at attacking wolf and boar. El uso de venenos pone en peligro el éxito reproductor del oso pardo (elcomerciodigital)

- Webcam for Paca and Tola. From mid-June we'll be able to watch Paca and Tola from a webcam over the internet. (Paca and Tola are two female bears who were orphaned in the 1980's when a hunter killed their mother. I saw both Paca and Tola taking a bath this August as we all watched on, sweltering outside their enclosuse. My photos were crap snaps. Much better this photo of Tola by Luis Lafuente. More of his work here on iberianature or on Luis' own page (Gracias Luis por estas noticias) The bars in the photo are deceptive. The couple have several hecatres of forest and crags in which to roam.

There is a plan to artificially inseminate them. See: Asturias wants «Paca» and «Tola» to be mothers (Nuevo España)

- Bear hunter. Flashback interview with Ignacio Rodríguez, born in Teverga in 1831, the "greatest" bear hunter in Asturian history with 99 bears killed over his career (he was paid). Most he shot, some he claimed to have killed with a knife. "I used to cover myself with old sacks and rags and wait for the bear to attack - and as bears don't cross their arms I threw myself between them knowing it couldn't embrace and squeeze me, and so I was able to stab at pleasure (sic)" Read here (Nueva España)

- Review of 2005: Brown bear on the rise in Asturias and Cantabria.

As I already mentioned here Record" number of bear cubs born, the much-maligned eastern Cantabrian population of bears in 2005 raised a recent record of six cubs, the highest for 15 years, and double the average for the period. Three females gave birth to three, two and one cub, respectively. Five cubs were born in 2003 an twin 2004. Initial figures are also positive for the Western sector with more cubs born than in 2004, though the final count is not complete. More soon

On a negative note, two bears were killed by humans, one poisoned in Resoba ( Palencia ) and other died from gunshot wounds in Polentinos (also Palencia ). Second bear found dead in a month

- Bears in Cantabria Cantabria is give free electric fences to help protect beehives from bear attacks. The so called bear patrol has detected bears in Cantabria on 356 occasions between 2004 and 2005, compared with 268 presences between 2002 and 2003 and 132 (2000 -2001). This data, along with the six new cubs, demonstrates the improvement in the chances of the Eastern population, much the result of the improvement in its habitat.

January news 2006

Reintroduction of bears in Pyrenees (latest details)

French biolgists are to travel in April/May 2006 to Slovenia to help capture five brown bears (4 females and 1 male). The animals will then be moved to the French Pyrenees and immeadiately released in an area yet to be determined. The capture and transfer of each bear costs around 10,000 euros an animal and is financed by the EU - Slovenia is not charging for the bears. The release follows in the line of the 1996 and 1997 programme when three Slovenian bears Giva, Melba and were also released in the Pyrenees. There are an estinmated 500 bears left in Slovenia. Just 16 - 18 remain in the Pyrenees distributed in three areas. The long-term objective is for a population of some 100 bears. (Various sources).
Also in the news today DNA study only manages to identify 3 bears in the Pyrenees (Terra - Estudio del ADN sólo identifica a tres osos viven en el Pirineo)(24/01/2006)

See also Balkan bears for Pyrenees + Bear observations in Spanish Pyrenees + Pyrenean bear cub alive + Brown bear attacks cow herd in Vall de Arán + Bears to be released into Pyrenees

Asturian bear takes to village

Following in the line of the fondness of Spanish bears for a certain level of human occupation (see Rural depopulation a threat to Spain's bears + Bears with 5km of Oviedo) is this piece of news on a brown bear which has taken to visiting the tiny village of Fresneo in Asturias in search of honey and rubbish. The locals first saw the bear attacking beehives in the middle of the village. It destroyed 10 hives. Since then it has come back and now roams the village lanes at night to a cacophony of dogs barking. Every morning the local wake up to containers overturned and rubbish strewn around. The honey keeps going too. The bear has also killed and devoured a domestic goat and had its fill in the local allotments. There may be several bears in action in the surrounding area. A sign that they losing their fear of humans again. More here El vecino más peludo de Fresneo (Nueva España) (bears in Asturias - humans and bears in Spain - honey bear Spain - Asturias bear)

Bears within 5km of Oviedo

t seems bears are becoming increasingly accustomed to humans in some areas. There have been a  number of sightings/signs of bear(s) within 5km of Oviedo, the capital of Asturias. Roberto Hartasánchez, president of FAPAS, notes «there are at least nine bears in the Valle de Trubia. Most are young males or adults with an erratic behaviour which can travel a number of kilometres a day in search of food». Although the proximity to Oviedo centre is evident, Hartasánchez says that the Valle de Trubia is home to excellent forests with abundantes chestnuts , a perfect food and habitat for bears. The ever greater number of houses aruond the town does not appear to have them scared off. Hartasánchez again notes that bears «adapt very well easily and accept a human presence». One of the key factors (listen  up Pyrennean yuppies) is the respect hunters have for bears in the Oviedo region. More at Los osos rondan Oviedo (La Nueva España)
Bears apparant bent for humans ties in with the below Rural depopulation a threat to Spain's bears

And the latest issue of Spanish wildlife magazine Quercus has an article on bear markings and scratches in Riaño (Leon- on the edge of the Picos de Europa). The area has a small bear population

Top of page Brown bears in Spain brown bears in Spain, bears in Asturias

December news 2005

Brief chronology of the extinction of bears in Spain

I've updated the article with pictures here: Brief chronology 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. Only nobles have the right to hunt bears. 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).
  • 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. 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).
  • Adapted from various sources including article here at FAPAS

(bear history spain, spain historical extinticion bear)


Rural depopulation a threat to Spain's bears

Interestingly, FAPAS President, Roberto Hartasánchez says that contary to what we might think rural depopulation is a threat to bears. There appears to be a certain dependancy (presumably as a food source) of bears on small rural settlements. When these are abandoned bears tend to move away.
He also stressed the level of endogamy and low reproduction rate in the Eastern bear population, and estimated the Eastern Cantabrian population at 25 individuals and the western at between 118 and 140. (Nortecastilla)

Spain Bear experts on state of Cantabrian bears : Female bears up by 60%

Interesting review of the state of the brown bear in Spain today by the president of the Fundación Oso Pardo, Guillermo Palomero. In addition to discussing the thorny topic of what is a viable bear population, he notes the following (Short summary):
-Population of Cantabrian female bears has increased by 60% in last 10 years. (see below
Spain brown bear population increasing ) In 1993 there were estimated to be 15 breeding females in the Western Sector. In 2003 there were 24. Increase in bear populatiion is due to conservation work between wardens and organisations
-Although the Western bear population can now be conidered 'viable' , this does not mean it should be no longer classified as 'endangered'. The two concepts are distinct. Spanish bear still face poison, snares and habitat loss.

Map source: Fundación Oso Pardo
-Genetic studies by the Museo de Ciencies Naturales have shown that the two Cantabrian bear populations are genetically seperate.

-It is necessary to create a bear corridor connecting the two populations.
-The strength of the bear population in the Western sector means that it may be time to transfer females to the more threatened Eastern Sector to increase genetic viability
-Possibility of Paca and Tola having offspring (artificial insemination) with Central-European bear. Here Fapas

Also FAPAS President, Roberto Hartasánchez says brown bear can only survive in Asturias and the Cordillera Cantabrica. The bear is suffering from the abandonment of villages and therefore traditional such as fruit trees, and the absence of carrion due to the EU ban on leaving dead livestock in the country because of BSE. Also Fapas here.
In another development (as they say), Somiedo National Park is to expand by 1500ha the area for brown bear protection. The newly expanded area totaling over 9500ha will be of restricted access. (24/11/2005). Top of page Brown bears in Spain


100,000 fruit trees to be planted in Belmonte de Miranda, Asturias for Spain bear

In the largest ever Spanish effort in bear habitat conservation, 100,000 fruit trees over the next two years are to be planted in Belmonte de Miranda in Asturias. FAPAS has signed a contract with a wind energy company, Parque Eólico de Belmonte S.A,  in compensation for windfarms built in Asturias (If I understand this rightly). Some 30,000 chestnuts and 35,000 cherry trees are to be planted. Clearly not only bears will benefit. More here at Fapas (19/11/2005) Top of page Brown bears in Spain

Slovenian and Croatian bears for the French Pyrenees

Five brown bears are to be moved from the Balcans to the French Pyrenees in spring 2006 in attempt to save the species from extintion. Four of the bears will be females aged 3-5. recent genetic studies suggest that it would have been better to have used Cantabrian bears (see below Origin of Cantabrian bears), though their fragile number does not allow transfer. The reintroduction is in part in  response to the popular and State reaction on the northern side of the Pyrenees to the death of Camelle at the hands of a French hunter. The feeling among many people on the Spanish side of the Pyrenees is not so postive towards bear reintroduction (see Brown bear attacks cow herd in Vall de Arán), in contrast to the general empathy and even pride felt towards bears in the Cordillera Cantábrica. More work needs to be done convincing people of the positive impact of bears in the Spanish Pyrenees. See also Bears to be released into Pyrenees

More here El Mundo
(bears French Pyrenees) Top of page Brown bears in Spain

Voluntary work for bears in Spain

If you fancy doing conservation work for bears in Spain, from February onwards there is an ongoing permenant camp of volunteers which plants fruit trees and such organised by Fapas. You can sign up for a week or as long as you like. Free board and lodgings. Details here
(bear conservation Spain)

Origin of Cantabrian bears: the same bear which killed Favila

The subtitle of the article is in reference to King Favila who was killed by bear - see Cantabrian Bear was First Spanish Republican (iberianature) .

A DNA study shows that Cantabrian bears are almost genetically identical to bears from the area some 20,000 years. Meanwhile bears in say Italy and the Balkans have evolved. During the last Ice Age mist of Europe was covered in a huge treeless tundra. Bears and Neanderthals took refuge in Iberia and the Balkans. From here they recolonised the continent as the ices waned some 10,000 years ago. Mitochondrial DNA studies of fossil (?) bear remains show that both populations developed differently. This may well provide an argument against moving bears. The article does not specify the origin of Pyrenean bears- which I must look into ( 6-11-2005 ) (Fapas ) Ursus arctos

+ Asturias to buy forests with bear populations to save them from logging

Camille spotted in Navarran Pyrenees (photo).
Top of page Brown bears in Spain

Plan to build a biological corridor connecting Cantabrian brown bear populations with the Alps

Bear experts from around the world gathered in Somiedo , Asturias to discuss the idea of a 'bear motorway' connecting Asturias with Switzerland . The first step would be to connect the two separate Eastern and Western bear populations in the Cantabrian Mountains . This would then lead through Cantabria (OK) and into the Basque Country (have they seen the network of roads in Euskadi?) and then through the Pyrenees into Catalonia (mmm). From here it would hack across the Massif Central in to the French, Swiss, Italian and Swiss Alps. It would mean burying electricity lines, building road underpasses and planting more forest. The idea will probably fail though by merely attempting it, other species would benefit.

This seemingly madcap plan has a precedent: the 3500km-long corridor across the Rockies connecting two of the world's most important national parks: Yellowstone in US and Yukon in Canada , though clearly with a lower population than in Western Europe . elcomerciodigital

Spanish bear expert doubts Western Cantabrian population is viable (Nueva España) spain bear
Top of page Brown bears in Spain

October news 2005

Brown bear diet changes: more apples and blackberries, less acorns

These are some conclusions from the 16th International Conference on Research and Conservation of Bears held recently in Rome from a series of studies on bears in Spain , in the Cordillera Cantábrica;

  1. Genetic analysis. Estimate of 107 brown bears in the Western sector of the Cordillera Cantábrica (ranging between 85 to 143)
  2. Identification. Photo ID of bears carried out by FAPAS.
  3. A kilometre a day. A study on bears with cubs showed they moved on average 7 kilometres a week.
  4. Censuses on the number of female bears with cubs vary greatly (in 2003 between 6 and 9). Need to standardise results.
  5. Cautious optimism for Western population growing at 7.5%., Eastern at 3%but with severe problems of genetic variability and lack of females. See below
  6. Change of diet. Study of 1,500 droppings since 1975 shows that brown bears in Cantabrian Mountains are changing their diet. They are eating far fewer acorns and bilberries because they have almost disappeared. They are eating far more apples, cherries and blackberries. The search for this type of fruit has brought them further down the mountains and closer to areas of human settlement
  7. Two populations and one corridor. Joining the Eastern and Western populations together is essential in conserving the bear in the Cordillera Cantábrica. The building of the Pajares road and the AVE track will make this more difficult. The solution lies in improving the habitat through reforestation. In more deatail here at Nueva España: bear spain
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Bear observations in Spanish Pyrenees 2005.

This is from the French site ours-loup-lynx so some sites may not have the correct Iberian placenames. Full review including French Pyrenees sightings in French here:

Navarra: Urzainqui (until Feb), Garde (track)
Vall d’Aran : Naut Aran (snow tracks), Vielha-Mijaran (sighting)
Andorra : Canillo (snow tracks)
Aragon : Hecho (track), Anso (2 tracks belonging to Camille. See below Pyrenean bear cub alive ) and Sallent de Gallego
Navarra : Isaba
Vall d’Aran : Arres (sheep and goats attacked), Bossost (track) and Canejan (sheep and goats attacked)
Aragon : Sallent de Gallego (observation of 1 bear)
Bausen et Les, Val d’Aran (sheep attacked), Canillo, Andorra (sheep attacked + pawprints), Arres and Vilamos, Vall d’Aran (sheep attacked), Canejan, Vall d’Aran (damage to beehives, sighting of 1 medium-sized bear), Naut Aran, Vall d’Aran (damage to beehives), Vielha, Val d’Aran (attack on 1 veal + 3 cows injured), Vielha-Mijaran, Val d’Aran (sheep attacked). See below Brown bear attacks cow herd in Vall de Arán

Tella Sin (1 bear sighted)
Vall d’Aran: Canejean (fur remains)
Vall d’Aran: Canejean / Vielha (sheep attacked)
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Spanish bear group removes almost 1000 snares since 1999

The bear group Fundación Oso Pardo has removed 995 illegal snares since 1999, of which 545 were in Asturias . The steel snares are used in the main to reduce boars in agricultural areas, which cause considerable crop damage, but are one of the biggest threats for bears in Spain , causing injuries, amputations and death As these numbers suggest the use of snares is still frequent. Snares are also used to capture animals for meat (boar and deer). Fundación Oso Pardo claim that snares and poison have a significant impact on the Cantabrian bear population, and have claimed far more brown bears than the five officially recognised deaths in the last seven years

Ursus arctos
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Brown bear population increasing .

The western Cantabrian population of brown bears, principally in Asturias , with around 100 individuals, is now considered as viable by most experts with around 100 individuals and rising at 7.5% a year. The much more fragile eastern Cantabrian population with 25-30 across an area of 2,500 km2 is increasing by a paltry 3% a year, though the low number of breeding adults means this number is seriously threatened. brown_bears_spain

Source: Fundación Oso Pardo

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First bear found dead was poisoined. An autopsy has revealed that the first bear found dead at the start of September was poisoned with an illegal and highly toxic substance called Aldicarb. The bear died almost a year ago and its sex is still to be determined. This make five bears to have killed this way in the Cordillera Cantábrica since 1998. brown_bears_spain More here at Fapas
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September news 2005

Second bear found dead in a month was shot.

According to the Veterinary Faculty of the University of León , a bear found by hikers on 25th Sept in Palencia died from "traumatic injuries" caused by gun cartridges. Killing a bear in Spain is punished with up to 4 years in prison. The animal was a male of some 15 years, and formed part of the fragile 'eastern' population of 25-30 individuals. The president of the Fundación Oso Pardo, Guillermo Palomero, noted that the death of one of the area's 6-7 females would have been much worse. Investigators are still unsure of the cause of death of the first bear found in Palencia in early September, though it appears not to have been shot. I am unaware as to when the last bear in Spain (as opposed to France ) was shot.
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"Record" number of bear cubs born in Eastern Cordillera Cantabrica

Six cubs have been born this year in the Eastern Cordillera Cantabrica, the highest number in at least 20 years. The bears here were on the edge extinction on the early 1990's.

11 bears have raised cubs this year in the Western section, adding to probably more than 100 bears in this area. (El Mundo-Leon )

See also: Eastern Cantabrian bear population shows timid recovery .
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France agrees to delay release of new bears (fapas)

At the request of Aragon , Navarra & Catalonia , France to release bears next spring instead of this autumn. Spanish representatives want to first promote awareness among Pyrenean residents and the guarantee adequate funding.

Bear spotted in Ordesa, burying dead sheep.. (Diario de Alta Aragon) Grainy ghotos here (Fapas)Review of the use of hidden camaras in following Cantabrain bears (Fapas) Camaras reveal details on individuals, population, breeding, behaviour, threats, etc.
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August bear news 2005

26/08 Manifesto for the reintroduction of brown bear into Pyrenees (FAPAS)

Artificial inseminated for Asturian bears (Nuevo España): several articles Asturias wants «Paca» and «Tola» to be mothers + Experts support decision ... + The Fundación Oso to inseminate Paca and Tola in spring

The problem of lack of carrion for bears and wolves due to EU law against BSE (FAPAS)

April-June news 2005

Brown bear attacks cow herd in Vall de Arán

June 28th 2005

Authorities in the Valle de Arán claim that one or more bears attacked a herd of cows three days ago. Four cows were injured, two of which had to be put down. The farmer claims another cow is missing, though this should be taken for the time being with a pinch of salt as false claims against wolves and bears are rife. Is this part of a smear campaign to prevent the release of more bears into the Pyrenees? Bears do sometimes kill livestock but the Aranese authorities were vociferous to the point of hysteria in their opposition last month. Update . The story has been confirmed by reliable sources. Possibly the drought has cut down their other food sources. The lack of carrion since the EU introduced anti-mad cow regulations (see below) may also be playing its part.

More here
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Infanticide among Cantabrian bears

June 12th 2005

Following the killing of four cubs by two adult male bears last week in Leon (see Adult male bears kill four cubs in Leon (Nueva España), FAPAS have highlighted the prevalence of bear infanticide in Asturias , specifically in Somiedo, where eight of the nine bear cubs born in the last eight years have been killed by adult bears. While FAPAS sees infanticide among bears as a natural phenomenon, it considers the rate of incidence to be abnormal. Roberto Hartasánchez, the president of FAPAS, notes " Asturias cannot look on as a mere spectator to what is happening to its bear cubs, however natural this may be." He is backed by Miguel Deblibes from the CSIC who also says "such attacks occur when there is a social "disturbance", and a male arrives to a territory and becomes immediately interested in a female on heat",.

The reasons why adult bears have killed so many cubs is unknown, though Roberto Hartasánchez says that the incidents falls dramatically in forested areas. More studies are called for.

On another point, FAPAS has also noted the problem of the lack of carrion for bears. Traditionally, dead livestock was left abandon or dumped in the mountains, but a recent EU law now prohibits this practice because of fears of mad cow's disease. This affects bears and wolves alike, with the former being particularly affected during the spring. (see Vulture feeding stations, mad cows and wolves )

Adapted from here (FAPAS)
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Latest news (June 2005)

Pyrenean bear cub alive

The cub of Canelle, the last totally autochthonous bear of the Pyrenees shot by a French hunter in November 2004, has managed to survive the winter without its mother. The French team of biologists in charge of the reintroduction have discovered its tracks in the beechwoods of the Ossau Valley in the Bearn area, close to the Navarran frontier, the same area where its mother died. It is unusual for a bear of 6-7 months old (now 16) to survive the winter without adult bears. It may well have managed because of the food left out in the area by the biologists during the winter. There is the precedent of Melba, also shot by a French hunter, in 1997 . Despite the fear of the fears of the biologists , two of her three cubs managed to survive the winter. Bear move from milk to solid food at around 4-5 months old.

15-17 bears survive in the French and Spanish Pyrenees. (see below) The French biologists are to release 5 Slovenian bears in the Central Pyrenees in the next few months.

Bears have recently attacked sheep flocks in the Vall d'Aran, and experts have confirmed the deaths of two sheep.

External link: Artifical inseminatation for Cantabrian bears (Fapas)
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Eastern Cantabrian bear population shows timid recovery


The eastern population of brown bears living on the edges of Cantabria, León, Palencia and Asturias has increased slightly in recent years to 25-30 individuals, with a rise in the number of breeding females. The bear here seems to have recovered from its crisis in the mid 1990's when many predicted its imminent extinction. In 2004 two bear cubs were born in this enclave comparison with five in 2003.

Note doubt much of the bear's recovery has been down to the conservation programme which has invested 540,000 euros since 1995 in habitat recovery, monitoring and education.

Bears from the eastern enclave are moving more and more into Cantabria. 174 signs of their presence were recoded here last year in comparison with 51 in 1998.

Their status, however, remains critical. In comparison, the western population in Asturias , Leon and Galicia is currently made up of 80-100 individuals. Last year it reached a recent record of 11 breeding females. Given the difficulty of establishing a natural corridor connecting these two populations and fact that western enclave seems relatively strong, there are increasing calls to transfer young females to the eastern section to improve the gene pool.

Over the last 14 years, the population of the brown bear in the Cordillera Cantábrica has risen from 60 - 80 individuals to 105 - 130. Just 14-16 bears are left in the Spanish and French Pyrenees .

External link: Delibes raises debate on captive breeding of bears,(Comercio Digital - 01/04/2005);
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Bears to be released into Pyrenees

It looks like the death of Canelle (see BBC article here), the last autochthonous female bear of the Pyrenees, last autumn at the hands of a French hunter has not been in vain. The public and political attention given to the shooting appears to have spurred on the authorities with the announcement of a joint plan for the recover of the brown bear in the Pyrenees by the Spanish, French and Andorran governments. For the time being the bears are to be released on the French side, beginning with five females next September. The plan involves releasing a total of 15-17 animals over the next five years in order to double the Pyrenean bear population by 2008, which would just begin to form the basis for a possibly viable population in the future. There are at present 14-16 bears left: two autochthonous males in the Atlantic area and between 12 and 14 individuals in the Central Pyrenees (Aran and Pallars valleys and adjoining French regions) from the reintroduction using Slovenian bears in 1997.

Although attacks on humans by brown bears are extremely rare, it is important to calm local populations –the Vall d'Aran has voiced it opposition, concerned about the bears frightening away the rich and eating into their snow tourism profits. A series of information campaigns is to be organised, along with the prompt and full payment of any bear damage to livestock, beehives and crops. Clearly protection of habitats is also key. A similar potpourri of measures in the Cordillera Cantábrica has successfully increased bear numbers (from a falling 60-70 to a rising 100 odd in 15 years). Unlike the wolf, the bear is now a source of pride among the vast majority of people in the Cantabrian Mountains . They have also seen tourism increase with the image of the bear at the forefront of all campaigns. According to a recent opinion poll in France , 86% of the inhabitants of the Pyrenees consider the bear as part of Pyrenean heritage. 58% are in favour of reintroduction programmes.

The French have asked bears from Asturias to be used because of their genetic similarity. However, their request has been denied as the Cantabrian population is still far from viable. As with previous reintroductions, Slovenian bears are to be used. One bear will roam an area of 2,500 km2 and travel up to 300 kilometres, and so it is important to choose the right spot for release. Despite appearances, the Pyrenees is an extremely modified human landscape with an ever increasing level of impact. Chalets are sprouting like mushrooms along every valleys. Whether the bear is compatible with this Benidormisation of the valleys remains to be seen.

January 2005
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Brown bears not hibernating in the Valle del Trubia

The Spanish wildlife group FAPAS has detected the presence of bears throughout the winter a they pass through the Valle del Trubia in search of food.

This difference in behaviour of some bears in Asturias may be because temperatures are not as low (for climatic reasons or because this particular valley is lower than the rest of the bear's current range) or because they have been unable to find enough food to build up enough fat reserves in the autumn. Fapas in concerned that a bear wandering in search of food in winter might accidentally get shot during the common boar hunts at this time of year. Following the movement of bears enables Fapas to prevent these hunts taking place at a given time and place.