Record number of brown bears in Pyrenees, after near extinction

A mum bear and her cub, photo: Marco Secchi on Unsplash
A mum bear and her cub, photo: Marco Secchi on Unsplash

The number of brown bears in the Pyrenees mountains separating France and Spain rose to 64 last year, including 16 cubs, animal rights organisations said Thursday.

The brown bear was reintroduced to the Pyrenees in 1996, with animals brought in from Slovenia. Hunters had killed almost all the brown bears in the area.

The first brown bears to be brought to the mountains were the two females Ziva and Melba. Twenty-five years later, animal rights groups and the French Biodiversity Office (OFB) counted 64 bears in 2020.

Sheep farmers have made it no secret that they are not happy with the re-introduction efforts. They have blamed bears for killing and eating their sheep.

Three brown bears killed
In 2020, three brown bears were killed in the Pyrenees. The six-year-old brown bear Cachou, who was found dead in April, was poisoned with a toxic substance used in antifreeze.

In June, a five-year-old male bear was shot dead, and at the end of November, a hunter killed the female brown bear Sarousse.

Around 50 actively reproducing bears, with sufficient genetic diversity, are needed for the population to be self-sustaining: that’s is the goal of the French government’s 10-year bear plan for 2028.

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