Wednesday, January 19, 2022
Text Size


Cantabrian Brown Bears

Bears United

Biologists from Oviedo University, Asturias have this year found conclusive DNA proof that two young Cantabrian brown bears are the progeny of

Map showing the locations of bears in Spaina male bear from the western population who has bred with a female from the eastern, individuals previously identified through DNA sampling. This is exciting news because, while the western population of bears (about 100 individuals) is seen to be relatively healthy and viable, there is concern that the bears of the smaller eastern group (about 30 individuals) are living on a knife edge under the threat of endogamy - the physiological process of the weakening of genes through inbreeding. The two populations are believed to have been genetically separated for around a century. Although a few male bears from the west have previously crossed the divide of motor and railways and been located in the east there has been no evidence of the two groups interbreeding until now.
The samples of faeces and fur were taken in Redes Natural Park (November 2008) and the Picos de Europa Regional Park (Spring 2009). From this data I surmise that the former is probably a young male in dispersal while the second is likely to be a young female seeking out her own territory near that of her mother (natural philopatric behaviour). However, this is just personal conjecture and wishful thinking because the eastern population is desperately short of breeding females.
Now, if the various governmental administrations and NGO's involved in the conservation of the species and its habitat can just work together to help the natural process along...........