Bears increasingly spotted in Spanish urban areas

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brown bears

According to the latest counts, 370 brown bears live in Spain. They are mainly found in mountain areas in the northwest of the country and in the Pyrenees. While wildlife enthusiasts with guides must have endless patience to spot a specimen of these impressive animals in the wild, residents of those areas notice that they are increasingly showing up in civilisation at unexpected times.

The fact that there are so many bears living in Spain again is even attracting international attention. Organisations that are committed to the conservation of the brown bear are happy with it. Things are different for residents of villages such as Frama, Cabariezo and Cabezón de Liébana in the Cantabria region, who regularly see them wandering through their streets and are afraid of real confrontations. In addition, the animals destroy fruit trees, for example they are fond of cherries. The more frequent presence of the bears in the civilised world causes fear and uncertainty among residents, especially among the elderly and children, who fear for their safety during walks.

Encounters with bears

For example, while visiting his grandmother in Frama one Saturday evening, young Manuel Relea saw a bear on a wall near a house. “He ate cherries from the trees next to the street,” Manuel told El Diario Montanes newspaper. The bears were frightened and one of them crossed the road, climbed a hill and disappeared into the forest. Manuel was able to film one as he walked past his car. “I fear for my grandmother and for everyone who walks here every day,” he said. “In the open field they get scared and run away, but in the narrow streets of the village their reaction can be very different.”

Also read: Surprise as brown bear makes city centre visit

A week earlier, Raúl Pablos, another resident of Cabezón de Liébana, had a similar encounter. “It was 4:30 in the morning and a huge bear crossed the road without bothering,” he said. “I worry about my mother who walks these streets every day.”

Brown bear on the road

Also a little further away in Puerto, near Las Caldas, about 15 kilometres from the centre of Oviedo, José Manuel Menéndez was surprised by a brown bear when he returned home last Monday evening. As he got out of the car to open the door, he looked up and saw the animal coming from between neighbouring houses about 50 metres away. “It was quite big, to be honest,” he says, still shocked. “It was still light, it saw me and didn’t even react, he just went on his way,” he explains in surprise.

Call for action

Carmina Escalona, ​​a resident of Frama, expressed her fear about their constant presence. “Something has to be done because we are all very scared. One day they will enter our homes,” she said. Fael Escalona, ​​88 years old, said: “Last year a bear walked through the barn and came to my front door. I’ve never seen them so close to houses.”

The mayor of Cabezón de Liébana, Jesús Fuente, plans to contact the authorities and the Fundación Oso Pardo. “This situation is untenable. No measures are taken and one day an accident happens. People are very scared as three different bears have been seen, including a large male one. They come for the cherries, but they also dig through the garbage cans. We cannot continue like this,” he stated.

Also confrontations with brown bears in the Pyrenees

Meanwhile, a historic record has been reached in the Pyrenees. According to the Pyrenees bear tracking team, there are currently 83 bears, seven more than last year. The bear population is growing and spreading to new areas. Despite population growth, the damage caused by bears to livestock in the Pyrenees has not increased significantly. In total, there were sixteen lootings in one year, some of which targeted goats and sheep that had stayed in the mountains overnight due to weather conditions. However, the growing number also leads to more encounters with people here.

Marc Vilahur, director of Polítiques Ambientals, emphasizes in El Periódico that bears are generally shy animals. Nevertheless, the increase in their numbers may lead to more reports and encounters. “People are interested in seeing these animals in their natural habitat, which provides an opportunity for wildlife tourism,” Vilahur said. Every year, approximately half a million euros are invested in prevention and awareness to prevent damage and inform the population.

What to do if you meet a bear in Spain?

In the case of an encounter with a brown bear, it is essential to follow some important guidelines. This allows you to avoid dangerous situations. The main thing is to remain calm, evaluate the situation and not approach the bear. 

Be careful not to block the bear’s possible escape route. If you notice that the bear has not noticed you yet, make your presence known by talking calmly. Avoid sudden gestures or quick movements. You should always avoid startling it. Under no circumstances should you try to feed the bear and withdraw slowly if you notice that the bear is uncomfortable. A bear may then growl, fidget or tap the ground with its paws. Then slowly back away while not looking directly at the bear. This can help avoid a direct confrontation.

If an attack – very unlikely – occurs, protect your head and neck and seek help as soon as possible. Once you are safe, report your sighting of the bear to local authorities as soon as possible. This can help prevent future dangerous encounters and protect both people and bears.

Also read: Goiat, the most infamous bear from the Spanish Pyrenees, has been declared dead

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