The once endangered Cantabrian Brown Bear has made a remarkable comeback across the region after years of heavy persecution. Through careful habitat management, there are now more than 250 Brown Bears recorded in the mountains. This includes 64 breeding females, with regular surveys carried out on 40 females and their cubs.
From ‘dangerous killers’, to the most admired animal on the mountainside, the Cantabrian Brown Bear is re-finding its feet in the mountains of Northern Spain.
Ranging from deep chestnut to blonde rugged fur, these distinctive characters are well-known across the world. Forget the cute and cuddly teddies on your bedroom floor; real, live 350kg Brown Bears are majestic, powerful and mysterious.
While Britain’s native Brown Bear population died out around 1,000 years ago, many European colonies have thrived in Spain, South Central Italy, the Carpathians, Scandinavia and across Russia.
Here in Somiedo, 50% of the economy is based on hospitality. Today, 80% of the hotel rooms are booked by people who wake up at 5am, excited to see bears out in the wild
The Cantabrian Mountains stretch more than 300km across the country, from the Western Pyrenees to the coast of the Cantabrian Sea. With peaks exceeding 7,000ft, dense forest and isolated plateaus, the Cantabrians host a varied source of habitat for the Brown Bear to live without the threat of human violence.
Up until the 17-18th centuries, the Cantabrian Brown Bear population was much more far-reaching. Hunting, poaching and disregard for Brown Bear habitat are the top three reasons that numbers fell, with dead bears being highly prized.
As a ‘priority species’, granted special protection in Spain since 1973, environmentalists have been fighting the bears’ corner for nearly half a century.
Conservationists from Spanish wildlife organisations such as the Brown Bear Foundation (Fundación Oso Pardo), eco-tourism companies and residents, are pleased to welcome the bears back to the area as both humans and bear learn to live more peacefully.
Alliances with local people and education programmes mean less poaching and trapping, with people born and bred in the local upland villages reaping the benefits of eco-tourism and spreading the word.
Local hotel manager, Jose Luis Valle, revealed: “Here in Somiedo, 50% of the economy is based on hospitality. Today, 80% of the hotel rooms are booked by people who wake up at 5am, excited to see bears out in the wild.”
More Than Birds is a local wildlife company offering wildlife and birding in Leon tours, established in Lugueros, a tiny village with just 25 inhabitants in the heart of the Cantabrian Mountains, and frequently takes groups to see the bears for themselves.
Who better to organise a wildlife tour than one of the local wildlife specialists based in Spain itself. Their local knowledge and expert, English-speaking guides, who live and breathe the country’s astonishing wildlife, mean that you have the very best chance of catching up with the key species you want to see. And the comprehensive selection of wildlife specialists and tours enable travellers to book the tour they want directly, simply by using the enquiry tab on each listings page.
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