Historic milestone among the population of bears in Catalonia since its reintroduction, with the birth of 10 cubs

The monitoring and control systems of the population of brown bears (Ursus arctos) in the Pyrenees have detected during the month of March that many animals have awakened from hibernation. Prior to this process, at the end of last year, 31 individuals of brown bear were counted in Catalonia, with five adult males (Pyros, Goiat, Pelut, Esmolet and Pepito) and 10 adult females (Hvala -with two cubs second year-, Bambou -with two first year-, Caramelles -two first year-, Boavi -with two first year-, Caramellita -with three second year-, Plume -with one second year-, Nheu with three fist year-, Fadeta -with a one year cub- and Patoune and another bear with no name, which have no cubs).

In 2016 has been achieved a milestone among the population of bears in the Catalan Pyrenees since its reintroduction, with the birth of 10 cubs.


Pyros, the dominant male

The father of the Caramelles two children is Pyros, who dominated the genetics of the brown bear in the Pyrenees over the past 21 years. It could also be the parent of six cups more, those from Nheu, Bambou and Fadeta, although not confirmed. Moreover, there is no evidence that the young male Goiat has had descendants, moved last June from Slovenia to break the dominance reproductive of Pyros and provide more variability in genes of the species implanted in the area.

Monitoring of plantigrades is part of the European project Piroslife, to consolidate the population of brown bears in the central Pyrenees. The coordinating partner of the project is the Department of Territory and Sustainability of the Generalitat de Catalunya. The associated beneficiaries are Aran General Council, Forestal Catalana SA, the University of Lleida and the Fundación Oso Pardo.

The movements of Goiat

Goiat has hibernated during 107 days -from 28th November 2016 to 16th March 2017-. During these three and a half months, the bear has awakened several times and made some output of no more than 100 meters from the cave it occupied, located in the Valley of Varradòs (Aran), plus 2,300 meters altitude in an area without vegetation and completely covered by snow.

Once it is put in place has travelled across the valley and is now heading towards other areas of Aran. It seems that is looking for carrions to increase rapidly lost weight during hibernation, about a third of its weight. Very soon will begin mating season and probably look for females to copulate. Goiat is permanently controlled thanks to the necklace transmitter that was put before freeing it to the Pyrenees and allows that the special equipment tracks their movements, habits and customs.

A comprehensive monitoring

The remaining bears are controlled by step tracking evidence. In 2016 data were obtained 809 data in Catalonia, spread over 205 samples of hair; 359 photographic contacts with automatic systems of photography, with 4.299 snapshots; 63 automatic video contacts, with 358 recordings; 47 observations; 87 faeces; 3 food evidence supply (an anthill depredated, a raised stone and an observation of feeding of dam); and 19 footprints.

Impact on livestock and beekeeping

Last year there were 33 attacks on livestock and beekeeping attributed to the bears, eight in Pallars and 25 in Aran. Have been opened 37 proceedings for indemnification. The Government of Catalonia has indemnified or will indemnify these damages for an amount of 9,332 euros.

Through Piroslife project, are being realized various actions to prevent attacks. In addition to the payment of damages, there is a program to support farmers and owners of flocks in extensive mountain to group together their flocks as effective measure of protection and surveillance when they graze on areas with presence of brown bear.

Have been hired shepherds and herders assistants of sheep and goats, cows and donkeys to control and monitor animals in the mountains and also carries out the installation, control and maintenance of electrical lads installed to protect hives of apiaries against possible predation.

Coexistence between sectors

The actions to encourage the coexistence with this sector is one of the the main axes of the project. Represent approximately 40% of the budget of Piroslife, more than one million Euros, mainly in Pallars Sobirà and Val d’Aran. This is to support the conservation of the brown bear as an element of recovery of biodiversity, but also as a dynamizing element, making effective coexistence with the inhabitants of the territory, supporting them to combine their activities with the presence of plantigrade and promoting, as a tourist product, the visit of its habitat and therefore acknowledging the good environmental quality of the area.

Piroslife is designed to implement a series of measures and actions that can help consolidate the future of the brown bear in a favorable environment and generate products and systems that can be exported to the rest of the Pyrenees and in other parts of Europe. The project is considered key to the economic revitalization of the area taking advantage of the attractive and the potentials that can generate the wild fauna and natural heritage for tourism and other sectors.

Among the various actions being carried out include those relating to the promotion of coexistence between brown bears and extensive livestock -with sheep, goats, horses and cows- and mountain beekeeping; habitat conservation and improvement; environmental education; communication and training; and genetic diversity. The project, however, is helping to promote employment in the local livestock sector by hiring shepherds, assistant shepherds and cowherds, some of whom have been trained in the school of shepherds of Catalonia. Thus, it is recovering the job of high mountain shepherd in this sector of Pyrenees where almost was losing.

New cottage shepherd in Boldís

This year it is planned to build a new shepherd cottage in the area of Boldís, in Lladorre (Pallars Sobirà), where last year the one promoted by Acció Natura was burned. Construction will be the same format as the one promoted last year the Department of Territory and Sustainability in Salau, in the Bonabé mountains, also in the Natural Park of the High Pyrenees, with energy efficiency criteria and with a great of pine wood from the same park. The shelter will provide protection and comfort to shepherd hired by the project Piroslife to monitor the flock sheep from different farmers, when graze on the summer in an area with continuous presence of bears.

Also planned to carry out plantations of fruit trees and mountain bushes in areas where it detects the need to improve the connectivity of the habitat of the brown bear, an action led by the Fundación Oso Pardo, in collaboration with Forestal Catalana and the other project partners.


Caption: Image of a young male, probably Pepito, taken on 18th March at the municipal district of Lladorre (Pallars Sobirà), by photographic trapping method.