Good news brown bear in Spain

by Lorraine Williamson
brown bear

The population and habitat of the brown bear in the Cantabrian Mountains have increased again after decades of decline. There are currently more than 300 bears living in northeastern Spain. Despite this, this species is still considered endangered in Spain. 

Researchers at the Doñana Biological Station (EBD-CSIC) in Seville report that the habitat of this bear species has reached 17,000 square kilometers for the first time in decades. According to the latest count of the Fundación Oso Pardo (brown bear foundation) in Spain, there are currently more than 300 brown bears living in the Cantabrian Mountains. This mountain range covers areas of Asturias, Castile and León, Cantabria and Galicia. 

Brown bear population and habitat Spain has increased since the 1980s 

The study of the brown bear population and habitat size was recently published in the journal Conservation Science and Practice. Since 1982, the bear population has been closely monitored. And from this year up to and including 2002, the number in this area has decreased considerably. In this period, the size of the habitat also declined sharply and even reached a minimum. 

From 2003 to 2021, however, there is a clear expansion of the population. According to the researchers, this may be the result of the efforts of the regional authorities of Cantabria, Castile and León, Asturias and Galicia to protect this species. 

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Cantabrian brown bear still endangered in Spain 

And with the increase in the population, the range of this species apparently also increases. The researchers are excited about this development. But they still remain cautious when it comes to predicting the future of this bear species. However, the brown bear is still considered an endangered species in Spain. 

Follow-up research needed to protect brown bear habitat 

One of the issues that researchers will now look into further is the question to what extent the measures taken by the regional governments have had an effect on the growth of the brown bear population and the expansion of its habitat. 

The fact is that 50% of the current habitat of the brown bear in the Cantabrian Mountains falls under the responsibility of these governments’ recovery plans. In other words; the other half does not. And that gives cause to look at the results of the measures taken and whether governments should not designate a larger or smaller area as a ‘protected environment’. 

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