Protection of the Brown Bear in the Cantabrian Mountain Range

Timeframe: 2020 - 2021
Country/Region: Northern Spain
Partner: FAPAS

The Cantabrian Mountains of Spain, characterised by high peaks of up to 2000 m and steep valleys, is home to two of Europe’s Large Carnivore species – Brown Bear and Grey Wolves.  At the beginning of the 20th century, the Cantabrian bear population split into eastern and western subpopulations, primarily through human persecution (direct hunting) and by loss of habitat due to agriculture and construction. Due to intense conservation efforts, however, the population has recovered over the last decades, and reached a number of 250-300 specimens.

Apart from the obvious risk of extinction posed by the low population size, the main threats are currently habitat fragmentation and human-bear conflicts which have resulted in an increasingly negative public attitude towards large carnivores in general. The number of illegally killed bears (poison, snares, poaching) has in fact increased over the last years. At the same time there is a lack of interest on political and decision-making level to further engage in protection of the Cantabrian bears and strive for a sustainable management based on scientific data.

Fondation Segré is supporting this project implemented by Fondo para la Protección de los Animales Salvajes (FAPAS) with the overarching goal to enable a peaceful co-existence of bears and humans in Northern Spain and to set the conditions for a further demographic stabilisation and reconnection of the two subpopulations.

The conservation of the Cantabrian brown bear populations will be achieved through three strategic objectives:

  • The current status of the Cantabrian Brown Bear population and potential geographic expansion is known and monitored
  • Habitat quality within the current area of occupation is improved and detrimental factors preventing further population growth are reduced
  • Conflicts between Large Carnivore Initiatives and humans are reduced by improved awareness and management