The European Nature Trust (TENT) and the Brown Bear Foundation (FOP) have been working in collaboration since 2017 with the objective of contributing towards the conservation of the Cantabrian brown bear. TENT is an international organisation supporting wildlife conservation projects across Europe. Their important contribution to FOP helps to sustain the work undertaken by the Bear Patrols in the Cantabrian mountain range, through field monitoring of the species, the planting of native fruiting trees and environmental education projects with school pupils.
Species’ monitoring and the prevention of threats and conflicts
The Bear Patrols carry out a wide range of tasks, all of which are critical for the species’ conservation, such as habitat monitoring and detection of unauthorised activities, principally in the areas with a high density of tourists and visitors.
Data on bear presence is collected continuously (pawprints, excrement, hair, etc.), which combined with direct observations of individuals and the searches to locate and then follow females with cubs, produce one of the principal sources of scientific knowledge about bears.
A member of the Bear Patrol measuring paw prints of a mother bear with two cubs in the Palencia mountains
Improving brown bear habitat and diet quality through fruit tree planting
The majority of food in the brown bear diet is vegetative in origin. We believe that the planting of fruit trees helps to provide a sufficient availability of food in the wild for a growing bear population. Fruit trees are planted in small patches, in as natural way as possible. In some areas, such as close to the AP-66 motorway we have undertaken planting to increase cover and favour connectivity between the two subpopulations of Cantabrian bears. Fruit trees of trophic interest are grown from native wild seeds collected locally by the Bear Patrols. These species are mainly wild cherry (Prunus avium), alpine buckthorn (Rhamnus alpina), alder buckthorn (Frangula alnus), crab apple (Malus sylvestris), damson (Prunus insititia), whitebeam (Sorbus aria), rowan (Sorbus aucuparia), common hazel (Corylus avellana), mahaleb cherry (Prunus mahaleb), plus a few others.
Collecting wild cherries to create a seed bank
Environmental education with schoool children
No less important is to generate a positive attitude towards the conservation of the brown bear and the environment, above all amongst the inhabitants of those areas where brown bears occur. The Bear Patrols attend the HUELLA environmental program, conveying knowledge to the pupils and accompanying them during didactic routes associated with the FOP’s own “Casas del Oso” (=Bear House information centres).
A group of school children in the Palencia mountains with a member of the Bear Patrol
In addition to the direct support for Cantabrian brown bear conservation activities, TENT promotes debate and the interchange of ideas and experiences, technical visits between different projects and the communication and diffusion of information about the Cantabrian brown bear on the international stage, so further enriching FOP’s work.