For the first time since 1843, authorities have confirmed the presence of this endangered species in Portugal.
One adult brown bear (Ursus arctos) was confirmed in Portugal, more specifically in Montesinho Natural Park (in Bragança region, in the country’s Northeast), near the Spanish border, the Portuguese Nature and Forest Conservation Institute (Instituto da Conservação da Natureza e das Florestas – ICNF, in Portuguese) said today.
This species is officially extinct in Portugal and the last confirmed record for the country was in 1843, when a brown bear was shot in Gerês region, also in the North.
Now, a brown bear was confirmed in Montesinho. The ICNF explains that there is, “at least, one wandering individual from a Northern Spain population, most probably from the western sub-population in the Cantabrian mountain range”.
In fact, this is one of the two sub-populations from the Cantabrian population, with around 280 bears. The other one is the eastern sub-population, with 50 bears.
Besides the Cantabrian population, Spain has just one more brown bear population, which is the Pyrenean. The two of them are geographically apart.
This story began in the end of April, when an apiary was damaged in La Tejera, in Zamora region, Spain. A team of experts sent to that apiary concluded that the damages were caused by a brown bear.
“Given the proximity with the Portuguese border, we decided to alert the ICNF for the presence of the brown bear. The animal might continue its journey to the South, as it eventually did just a few days later”, said the Spanish Junta de Castilla y León, in a statement published yesterday.
“This is the first time in 200 years that the presence of this species in Portugal can be reliably confirmed.”
This brown bear “has been monitored by the ICNF” in that border territory, “in collaboration with Spanish authorities”, the ICNF explained.
Experts believe this is an adult bear searching for territory. “This is a normal behaviour. According to scientists, some individuals may travel long distances in certain moments of their biological cycle”, said Junta de Castilla y León.
“We are going to continue working in collaboration with the Portuguese conservationists in order to follow this bear. This is a landmark moment in the brown bear conservation in the Cantabrian Mountains.”
The last records of a stable presence of brown bear in Portugal trace back to XVIII and XIX centuries. After that, the species disappeared from the country.