Archive for the ‘Pyrenees’ Category

Catalan bears on video

Thursday, October 2nd, 2008

The Aranese authorities have captured some excellent images of the bear Hvala with her 19-month old cub. It is unsual for a “cub” (no longer so small) to stay with its mother for so long.

The Legend of Monte Perdido

Thursday, October 2nd, 2008

Monte Perdido, the Lost Mountain, (3355m) is the third highest peak in the Pyrenees but until the early 19th century it was thought that to be the highest. It does, however, boast the highest waterfall (400m) in Europe and the second largest glacier in the Pyrenees. The mountain is home to many legends, perhaps the most evocative of which is this one:

A palace was built at the beginning of time by the mythical Enchanter of the Peaks, Atland, who put a spell on the palace so that only certain people could enter it. Polished walls and towers protected it and hid behind them vast gardens and meadows that were like an earthly paradise. The palace is still bound by Atland’s spell and can only be entered if you are riding on the back of a flying horse. More legends from Aragon

Aiguestortes trip report

Sunday, September 21st, 2008

Lucy has posted on her iberianature blog this fantastic series of five trip reports on her recent trip to Aiguestortes in the Catalan Pyrenees. Enjoy.

The renewed silence was broken by a piercing whistle, as if a referee had just stopped play. The first time I ever heard a marmot’s warning call, I was sure it was a bird. One tone warns of raptors and another of danger on the ground. The Pyrenean marmots didn’t survive the last ice age, but were re-introduced in 1948, and have been burrowing there extensively ever since. They are Europe’s largest and perhaps shaggiest rodents, preferring to stay underground on hot days, as well as hibernating throughout winter. This upright marmot was on lookout duty. Read

Bear eating roe deer

Monday, July 14th, 2008

Check out this short but rather good video of Hvala tucking into a roe deer corpse, left in front of a bear cam by the Vall d’Arán authorities. Hvala was one of the bears released into the Pyrenees from Slovenia six years ago.  The Vall d’Arán have contracted the services of a shepherd this year to gather together and protect the flocks of sheep of 17 farmers.

Brown bear population in the Pyrenees

Sunday, May 18th, 2008

oso pardo Photo El País

Another update on brown bears in the Pyrenees. The population of bears in the range has “stabilised” at 20 individuals, of which only two (old) males and one cub belong to the autocthonous “group of Pyrenean bears. The remaining bears are those introduced from Eastern Europe in 1996, 1997 and 2006, or are cubs of these animals.

In Catalonia, in the last year at least 12 bears have been recorded passing some time here, and as some of these are now cubs, we can now begin to talk about a second generation growing up since the reintroductions began. A sign of the increased activity of bears is the first recording of a bear In the Vall d’Arán for a number of years. Watch the video of a female bear being followed by a male here. Both have recently awoken from hibernation.

The latest DNA evidence suggests that the genetic difference between Spanish bears and those from the rest of Europe is small, and therefore there should be no reason to oppose transfers from other areas on biological grounds. See Wikipedia for more on links on this. In 2007, brown bears in the Catalan Pyrenees killed 20 sheep, 1 cow and 1 horse, which the Catalan Government compensated to a tune of 6,640 euros. A small price to pay. See

See also Pyrenean bear news

Pyrenean snowfall could drop by 50%

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2008

Spanish scientists from the Pyrenean Ecological Institute have predicted that temperatures in the mountain range in eastern Spain and south-west France could rise by between 2.8C and 4C by the start of the 22nd century. At the same time, snowfall levels could decline by between 30% and 50%. The study also claims that the slopes above 2,000 metres may see snow for only four to five months, whereas today they are covered for up to six months. The report, published in the International Journal of Climatology, also claimed rainfall levels could go down by between 10.7% and 14.8% a year by the end of this century. Researchers said the predictions, which cover the period between 2070 and 2100, were based on possible rises in greenhouse gases. They used six climate models which accurately estimated conditions in the Pyrenees between 1960 and 1990.
Juan Ignacio López-Moreno, a geographer, who led the Spanish High Council for Scientific Research (CSIC) team, said that in the best-case scenario, if emissions were low, by 2100 average temperatures could rise by 2.8C. However, if emissions rose, temperatures would increase by 4C. This would clearly have major implications for the Pyrenees. The Guardian or CSIC report here in Spanish

Pyrenean bear news

Monday, April 21st, 2008

The last photo of Canelle?

The French hunter who in 2004 shot Canelle, considered the last autochthonous Pyrenean female bear has been absolved by a court, which believed the hunter’s version that he did so in self-defence after the bear attacked him. The death of Canelle caused outrage in France and led directly to the current reintroduction project of Slovenian bears. El Pais

Also in the Pyrenees, Guillermo Palomero, president of the Fundación Oso Pardo, notes that the Pyrenees still has enough habitat for a bear population to develop and stresses the role bears could play in increasing the need to combat the animal’s poor image here in contrast to the Cantabrian Mountains. (Aragon Digital). Some 15-20 animals survive on both sides of the border.

Innovative breeding techniques for Lammergeier

Sunday, March 30th, 2008


Using a technique for the first time with this species, the Foundation for the Reintroduction of the Lammergeier hope to release a bird bred completely isolated from human contact. They’ve built a 6x6m platform at 1,500m in Ordesa which includes a heated nest with a “puppet” adult bird to feed the chick and, next to it, a cage which the chick will be moved into after 80 days to continue the natural imprinting process as in this area of the Pyrenees there is the largest population of the species in Europe. A feeding station next to the cage will provide opportunity for the chick (born in Feb.) to observe and learn natural adult behaviour. After 120 days the young bird will fly for the first time.
They say that this tecnique will be used in the “near future” for the release of three birds in the Picos de Europa, from which I guess will be next year, the only difference being that the birds will be relocated from the Pyrenees two weeks before their first flights in the Picos.

The conservation group are already using another technique of strategically placing caged adult birds in areas in which they hope to encourage the Lammergeier to return.

For more info go to the discussion on Iberianature forum

Posted by Lisa

Walking in Pre-Pyrenees

Tuesday, January 8th, 2008

Lucy has this report on the forum of a short trip to Sierra de Montgrony “Against the greys and browns there were vivid concentrations of colour: the ruby breast of a Bullfinch, scarlet splash of a Woodpecker and quantities of rosehips. Old Man’s Beard was plentiful, catching the sun. There was a lovely interlude when the route goes through a ghostly beech wood, ankle-deep in coppery leaves. No sign of the dramatic black woodpecker of last spring.” Read

Bear deaths

Sunday, August 26th, 2007

Lisa of picos-accommodation has reported on the forum on these lamentable bear deaths in Spain during the summer. Follow the thread on the forum

“Franska, the female bear accused of having killed 150 sheep in the Pyrenees, was killed in a road “accident”” near Lourdes last Thursday (9th) at 6.30am. Her search for territory has ended. Photo below from Fapas. An autopsy has revealed dozens of small calibre gun shot pellets were found in her body dating from weeks before.  Her bullet-ridden body is being blamed for her erratic behaviour (farmers blame her for the death of 150 sheep in a couple of months) The autopsy also revealed her age as being 17 and not 7 as the Slovenian authorities had stated.”

“Environment news from regards the death as suspicious. Had she been regularly crossing the road at that point I wonder? Of the five Slovenian bears reintroduced to the Pyrenees, there are now three remaining. Another female was found dead at the foot of a cliff not long after being released.”

“Sadly, another dead bear from; A dead bear has been found in a field in the Palentine area of the Cordillera (we were driving in the area yesterday) and tests are being carried out to try and establish the cause. As the photo shows, much of the corpse has been eaten by other animals. The bear was about 20 years old so it could have died of natural causes (on open ground??) although in the last few years, 9 bears have been found dead in this area; 6 poisoned, 2 shot and one cause of death unknown. Possibly, cubs could be added to this list affected by the death of mothers”