At least 70 bears live in the Pyrenees and Andorra

by Lorraine Williamson
Pyrenees bears

PAMPLONA – According to the European project LoupO, coordinated by the Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB), at least 70 brown bears (Ursus arctos) and eight grey wolves (Canis lupus) have been identified in the French-Spanish Pyrenees and Andorra since 2019. 

Researchers stated that both species, which are part of the natural heritage of Spain, France, and Andorra, show transboundary distribution. The bear has a breeding population in the central Pyrenees (Haute Garonne, Ariège, Val d’Aran, and Pallars). However, the presence of some wolf males has been found in the foothills and the Eastern Pyrenees. 

See also: Spain third-best wildlife holiday destination in Europe 

Over 500 non-invasive samples 

Since the start of the project, more than 500 non-invasive samples (hair, feces, urine in the snow) have been collected. These have identified as being from bears and wolves in the Pyrenees. Likewise, the genetic and ecological data (obtained by cameras, observations, and location of wild and domestic prey) have made it possible to identify at least 70 different bears in the Pyrenees and at least 4 wolves only on the Catalan side. 

They have also discovered the presence of some isolated wolves both in Aragon and the French Pyrenees. 

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The feeding preferences of the bear and the fox 

The project has made it possible to study the microbiome and diet of the wolf and bear. In this way, it has been confirmed that the diet of these animals in the Pyrenees is mainly of vegetable origin. And, furthermore, that plants of the Fagaceae family (for example, beech or oak) predominate. However, the wolf’s diet has only been determined from 11 feces. And, moreover, the most commonly detected prey is the roe deer. 

Scatter maps 

In the case of the bear, this data has enabled distribution maps to be established based on their presence in the area to apply management measures of different intensities. Below is how to prevent damage in new expansion areas. The aim is to make it easier to anticipate possible conflicts, for example with farmers and their livestock. 

Sustainable development of border area 

The research, with a budget of €1,250,109 was 65% co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) through the INTERREG V-A Spain-France-Andorra program (POCTEFA 2014-2020), a European program for territorial cooperation created to promote the sustainable development of the border area between the three countries. 

See also: Elderly woman attacked by brown bear

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