What to do if encountering a bear?

What to do if encountering a bear? 1350 916 Fundación Oso Pardo

Brown bears are found in the Cantabrian Mountains in the autonomous communities of Asturias, Castilla y León (León and Palencia provinces), Cantabria and in a small area of Galicia (Lugo). There are  approximately 300 bears.

In the Pyrenees,  there are around 50 bears. They move across a vast area covering 6,000 km2 (of normal and occasional presence), although the preferred areas are much smaller and more localised; in Spain the valleys of Roncal (Navarra), plus Ansó and Hecho (Huesca) are visited by a few males, but the areas with a greater presence, above all of breeding females with cubs, are the forests of the Val d’Aran and Pallars Sobirà (Lleida).

Cantabrian brown bear population has greatly increased during the last years, which has subsequently increased the odds of encounters between bears and people. This infographic shows how to act if we have an encounter with a bear.

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Participation by the Brown Bear Foundation in a responsible tourism debate promoted by TENT. February 2020

Participation by the Brown Bear Foundation in a responsible tourism debate promoted by TENT. February 2020 1578 891 Fundación Oso Pardo

On Wednesday 12th February the Brown Bear Foundation (FOP) took part in a debate sponsored by The European Nature Trust (TENT), concerning the increasing relevance of tourism in the conservation of threatened species. The event was held in London, in the Samsung offices at King’s Cross, in the presence of a number of other European conservation organisations including Foundation Conservation Carpathia, Salviamo l´Orso, CBD Habitat Foundation and Alladale Wilderness Reserve.

The debate, presented by Ross Westgate, was moderated by the ecologist and conservationist” Chris Morgan. The pros and cons deriving from responsible tourism and impacting on the conservation of threatened European species such as the brown bear and Iberian lynx (amongst others) were raised. In particular, the question of how to determine the point at which the conservation benefits of tourism start to outweigh the problems they cause was debated in depth.

Additionally, the value that emblematic species may represent as “umbrellas” for the conservation of other less charismatic and so less attractive species for the general public was also discussed.

Finally, one of the crucial themes of the debate was the importance of networking between the different European and other international conservation organisations, which all those present considered as fundamental.

From left to right: Juan Carlos Blanco (FOP), Angela Tavone (Salviamo l´orso), Simona Bordea (FC Carpathia), Carmen Rueda (CBD Habitat), Pieter-Paul Groenhuijsen (Alladale Wilderness Reserve) and Chris Morgan

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Working with TENT

Working with TENT 1143 857 Fundación Oso Pardo

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.

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