FunNature & AnimalGuillermo Palomero, president of the Brown Bear Foundation: 'You...

Guillermo Palomero, president of the Brown Bear Foundation: 'You cannot do conservation without science'

The Cantabrian brown bear ( Ursus arctos arctos ) is a symbol of Asturias. This plantigrade, as happened with other species in Spain, such as the Iberian lynx or the wild cat, was on the verge of disappearing at the end of the 20th century, mainly due to illegal hunting.

Fortunately, thanks to the work of organizations such as the Brown Bear Foundation (FOP), The European Nature Trust (TENT) and respectful and sustainable nature tourism initiatives such as Wild Spain Travel, the present and future scenario for the brown bear is optimistic.

Success in protection actions

This great animal had a shy growth during the 2000s , but much more noticeable in recent years. Proof of this is the figure of between 350-400 specimens that the foundation is considering, between the eastern and western population of brown bears.

Although poaching and hunting have represented the greatest concerns since the bear began to decline in number, the fight against both practices by conservationists and the commitment to environmental education (and with it, to a change of mentality in the population), have led to effective control and, also, to a much more stable and secure situation for the survival and development of bears, they explain from the foundation.

science and conservation

The Principality of Asturias authorized in mid-July 2021 the Brown Bear Marking Program in Asturias for the period 2021-2023 with the intention of avoiding situations of risk for the population, given that there have been some complaints of attacks on livestock – although very few-, by bears looking for food. Radio-tagging has begun with three bears from León and Asturias that deserve more exhaustive monitoring in order to avoid conflicts. These radiotags use satellite technology to geolocate the selected bears while collecting valuable information about their behavior.

 

What consequences will climate change have for bears?

It is impossible not to talk about a species as symbolic as this one and not wonder how it will affect or is affecting a constantly warming planet. Guillermo Palomero tells MUY that, at the moment, they are not aware that it has affected them and that all studies suggest that the bear will adapt without problem but with certain drastic changes. “You cannot do conservation without science,” argues Palomero.

“When temperatures rise, bears will hibernate less because of climate change,” says the president of the Brown Bear Foundation. Although it seems that they will be able to adapt to an increasingly warmer world, the brown bear will see how their environment will be affected and, with it, their diet (they love any fruit with sugar, such as cherries, apples or blueberries).

This is precisely the reason why the Brown Bear Foundation has launched another of its LIFE programs thanks to funding from the European Union and with the collaboration of the CSIC. This is the “Bears with a Future” project, which will promote the food sources of this species, since oak and beech trees will suffer greatly from rising temperatures. From 2020 to 2025, they will focus on betting on chestnut forests, which are much more resilient, and thus be able to secure their food, even with these climatic emergency conditions.

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