BROWN BEAR WATCHING IN NORTWESTERN SPAIN
The native Pyrenean Brown bear population is now unfortunately extinct. However, they have been reintroduced primarily on the French side of the Pyrenees with bears from Slovenia showing a rise in numbers to between forty and fifty bears for the time being on both sides of the Pyrenees.
Nevertheless, in the 90’s, the western side of Spain showed a population of around 70 native brown bears, but luckily, and after some good management, this situation has change, and the number is up to 300 bears, with the majority of the population located in the western group, mostly in Cangas de Narcea and Somiedo.
Therefore, this is why we will spend six days exploring these mountains looking for bears as well as other interesting native mammals along with butterflies, birds, and orchids. Furthermore, there are also many appealing human heritage sites such as the historical mountain shepherd huts, which we will visit while on the tour, offering a broader view and prospective of this appealing region.
The perfect time for the sighting of bears is ideally during their mating season or in late summer, when wild berries are ripe. The best time of the day is early in the morning or either late in the evening using a scope or binoculars. Depending on the season, the bears will be in different locations. With this knowledge at hand, the guide will be able take the visitors to the exact spot for optimum viewing.
From April to May, the males can be seen entering new territories looking for females. The females will be very alert to them and on the defensive if still with their cubs as the male will try to kill the cubs. The female will defend her cubs to the death, which can also end in hers. The male will carry out this heinous act of infanticide so as to bring the cubless female back in heat and have her looking to mate anew, which of course will leave him as a suitor. So interactions like this may be seen taking place over this crucial time in spring. However, their behaviour will be of a more relaxed nature come late summer when they are primarily feeding on berries, and they are only worried about getting fat before the winter arrives. This is when it can be possible to find several animals passively sharing the same slope for food.
During our time here, get ready to have your taste buds tickled as we sneak in a wine and cheese tasting tour, delighting the senses with these local delicacies, thus enhancing the overall flavour of the one week visit, while at the same time offering the opportunity to take samples home with you. Alternatively, visit a local handcraft museum where you can admire the exquisite creations of the local artisans whose skills have been passed down from generation to generation.
During the tour we will use a comfortable 7-seat minivan to get around in. Dark or drab, all-weather clothing should be worn during sit-outs while waiting for bear to appear so as not to stand out and so potentially spooking bears thus defeating the whole purpose of your stay. Moreover, wearing brightly coloured clothes may have the opposite effect and attract them to your hideout. Not an ideal scenario. It is also highly recommendable to bring a good pair of binoculars even though a good scope is provided by the guide for anyone who wants to get right up close. As the animals we are in search of are in the wild, observations are expected but unfortunately not guaranteed. In fact, this may imply quite a lot of patience as well as the willingness to get up early on cold mornings exposing yourself to the elements. Remaining quiet and still is a must so as not to disturb the animals’ natural movements while respecting the other people in the group at the same time. The level of difficulty along the trails is not demanding making them suitable for all and everyone keen to view the animals in their natural environment.
The observations will be done relatively close to the road and in fact there will be times when sightings from the town itself may take place as the animals actually share the same habitat as the local inhabitants. We must bear this in mind at all times by showing utmost respect towards these places to ensure a low touristic impact thus maintaining the dynamic of the area.
Food will be provided as either sandwiches and/or tapas while dinners will vary depending on the day.