Bears in the Pyrenees: the official report for 2017

Cet article est également disponible en: French

Bear cub. Photo: Djo

Bear cub . Photo: Djo


The French Réseau Ours Brun (Brown Bear Network) has released its annual report [summary at end in English]. There are now officially 43 bears in the Pyrenees, spread over an area of 5,000km2 in two separate zones. 41 live in the central zone (up 2 from 2016) and 2 in the western zone. With ten adult females now present, there should be more cubs this year.

For the first time since the year 2000 one of the males based in the central zone (Rodri) and both the males in the western zone (Néré and Canellito) have visited the other nucleus, at the end of 2016 and in 2017. However, if Néré and Canellito were looking for girlfriends they were probably disappointed. No females are known to have been in the areas they explored.


Presence of bears in the Pyrenees 2017

Presence of bears in the Pyrenees 2017


Although the figures show a huge population increase since the low of five in 1995, the bear experts see two problems. Firstly, the inbreeding in the central zone. And secondly, the lack of females in the western zone – which may be rectified if Nicloas Hulot’s plans to reinforce the population with two females come to fruition.


Brown bear action plan 2018-2028

Brown bear action plan 2018-2028


But the plans are running into stiff opposition. The first demonstration against the bears, in Pau on 30 April, attracted 1200 protestors according to the police, 2000 according to the organisers. A second one, in La-Bastide-de-Sérou at the other end of the Pyrenees, saw 750 protestors – again according to the police who had deployed the riot squad – though France 3 television only counted 350-450. With the first violence: the rear window of a van was reported to have been smashed and the occupants insulted. More importantly, the protestors have the support of the local Chambers of Agriculture, farmers’ unions and, in the Ariège, the backing of Henri Neyrou, president of the council.

The reasons for the opposition are well known: attacks on sheep, which increased by 46% to a record high of 464 animals in 2017. It should be noted that these figures count all attacks where the responsibility of the bear cannot be excluded. There are also a large number of cases where farmers are paid compensation even though the responsibility of the bear was excluded by the technicians.

Some shepherds say that some of their colleagues could do more to protect their sheep. Others, like Gisèle Gouazé whose cooperative lost 209 sheep in a single attack, say that the government has created a problem for shepherds and that it is the government’s responsibility to fix it.

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