Although the Cantabrian Mountains contain areas of high environmental quality, habitat loss and fragmentation is one of the main problems that the brown bear has to face for its survival. Forest fires, mining or different kind of infrastructures in sensitive areas are some of the activities that deteriorate the bear habitat. The Habitat Program of the Fundación Oso Pardo (FOP, Brown Bear Foundation) encompasses all actions and projects aimed at reducing impacts and improving coverage and feeding conditions in bear areas.
One of the basic courses of action for the conservation of the brown bear is to guarantee connectivity between populations and breeding nuclei by developing measures that facilitate the movement of specimens and the necessary genetic exchange.
The FOP works in the communication corridors and in the zones of expansion, creating a network of small forests to favour the movement of the bears. In addition, 6 the plantations around motorways encourage bears to use the most suitable tunnels and passages and avoid collisions with vehicles.
FOP also works on identifying the “black spots” of roads and railways, where the chances of accidents are greater, to propose specific measures that make these infrastructures safer and more permeable.
In addition to the plantations to promote connectivity between bear areas, the FOP has over several years created a network of feeding points strategically located on the slopes most visited by bears and, especially, by females with cubs. The land is planted with cherry trees (Prunus avium), apple trees (Malus sp.), alder buckthorn (Frangula alnus), whitebeam (Sorbus aria), alpine buckthorn (Rhamnus alpina) and other 8 fruit-producing species for the bear.
The plantations are developed on abandoned grassland or in forests owned by the FOP, or on public or private lands through land stewardship agreements that guarantee the future maintenance of the plantations.
The plantation works are usually carried out with local forest cooperatives and unemployed residents of the area, thus contributing to the creation of local employment.
The FOP places great importance on volunteering activities, because they facilitate the involvement of society in the conservation of biodiversity and promote values of solidarity.
The profile of the FOP volunteer is very heterogeneous, ranging from children and their families to retired people, students, professionals from different fields, or workers of the companies that support us.
Increasingly, the number of volunteers is rising, and either individually or collectively, they participate selflessly, working as a team, for the conservation of the bear and its habitats.
Volunteer actions that arouse more enthusiasm and motivation are linked to improving the quality of the bear habitat. The volunteers actively participate in the planting of autochthonous species that produce fleshy fruits and in the collection of seeds for the nurseries.
The FOP is co-owner of 14 woodlands that occupy 112 km2 and owns 131 abandoned grassland totalling 72 hectares. The properties are located in the west of the Cantabrian Mountains, in the areas of highest habitat quality for the bear.