Predator recovery across Europe – Part 2 – Bears

The decline in bear numbers occurred earlier than wolves in many areas, and as bears are slow breeders compared to wolves it can take a long time for populations to recover.

In this post I will outline the main populations in Europe.

Cantabrian mountains: this has a current population of around 250 animals (it is thought) though the official count is still only around 150. The growth in this population has occured over just 5 to 10 years, and encouragingly the estimate has not been changed, so the hunting quota has not risen. It should be noted that around 1950 it was thought that there were around 1000 bears roaming this part of the world, so hunting quotas must allow this number to continue to recover. Further east, there is a small population that continues in the Pyrenees. Poaching pressure almost wiped out this population.

Pyrenees mountains: this population has been under pressure for a very long time. In 1940s there were around 150 bears in the Pyrenees. However, by 1954 only 70 remained. In the 1990s the last bear disappeared from the central Pyrenees leaving just 7 in the west of the mountain range. Over the next two decades a number of bears from Slovenia (same species of bear) were translocated to the area. Unfortunately it appeared to be too little too late, and so in 2005 the French government introduced some more bears from Slovenia. There are currently around 20 bears roaming the Pyrenees. There are around 150 people employed to look after this small bear population. There are also very small populations in the Apennines and Alps of Italy though each only contain small numbers (around 20 in the biggest population).

The Scandinavian bear population is far more healthy with perhaps 5000 bears to be found here. Around half of these can be found in Sweden with 1600 in Finland and around 700 in Estonia. Norway only has around 70 remaining.

The Carpathian bear population is by far the most healthy with perhaps 8000 members spread along the mountain range. There are also small populations in countries such as Croatia, the only place I have been lucky enough to encounter them.

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