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Cantabrian Brown Bears

Bear Census 2007/2008

Figures have been released for the number of cubs born in the winter of 2007 and 2008. Using the most reliable method of counting individual females and cubs allows for an approximation of the total bear population. Numbers give

a total of 19 females with 37 cubs between them in the whole of the Cantabrian mountains of northern Spain. These numbers break down to 17 females in the larger western population with 34 cubs and 2 females in the east with 3 cubs between them.bears_trubia_valley_fapas For the total bear population, numbers remain at around 100 in the west and around 30 in the east. The bear conservation organisations, Fundación Oso Pardo and Fapas, and the environment ministries of the three Autonomous Communities involved, Asturias, Cantabria and Castile-León allowed themselves a pat on the back for these figures although the latter (with their not so brilliant conservation record) were reminded by ecologists that one of the two females' cubs was killed by infanticide (by males hoping to bring the mother back into season) and that the other died of unknown causes, leaving a grand total of one living cub. (See Picos, Palencia and Poison). Infant mortality is high among these bears.

The annual bear counts only started in 1989. Females with cubs of the year are usually the easiest to spot, from first leaving the den in spring when the mother needs to find food to restore her body weight after using all her energies fattening up her tiny cubs to playing on mountainsides and foraging for the summer berries on open scrub. Many of these families are distantly monitored.
The collection and subsequent analysis of droppings and hairs caught on fencing and trees helps to identify individuals as do the images captured by the remote cameras of Fapas (see link above).

Not all individual bears are identified however, and radio-tracking is frowned upon after past upsets, so the over-all figures are still educated guesswork.


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