If you go down to the woods today (or any time in April to June and Mid August to Mid October), you’re sure of a big surprise (maybe not “sure” but there’s definitely a chance!).
Deep in the heart of the Cantabrian mountains and well off the beaten path lives an elusive creature that not many people have had the chance to visit, and even fewer have had the chance to see. The Cantabrian brown bear is a marvellous creature which next week’s post on TENT’s Journal will tell you all about, but today we’re talking not about the animal itself but about the heroes striving to protect it.
Fundación Oso Pardo was founded in 1992 with the aim of contributing to the study and conservation of the brown bear, its habitat and its cultural surroundings. The Foundation consists of a multidisciplinary team of scientists and experts in biodiversity conservation, environmental educators, communicators and rangers.
The work of FOP includes the conservation and restoration of high-interest habitats, monitoring of the bear population, research, the fight against poaching, training and environmental education, and the prevention of conflicts between bears and humans.
Fundación Oso Pardo deploys Bear Patrols in the most important bear zones of the Cantabrian Mountains. The patrols are made up of local men and women and their tasks include surveillance and monitoring of bear populations, support for research programs, environmental education and guiding visitors to the National Parks.
HABITAT PROGRAM – CONNECTIVITY & PLANTATIONS
One of the best ways to conserve the brown bear is to promote connectivity between populations using measures that allow the individuals to move around and breed.
FOP works to create a network of small forests, ‘wildlife corridors’, which encourage the bears’ movement. In addition, plantations around motorways encourage the bears to use the most suitable tunnels and passages and therefore avoid collisions with vehicles.
FOP also works to identify ‘black spots’ on roads and railways, where chances of accidents are greater, and propose specific measures that make these sites safer.
Over several years, FOP has also created a network of feeding points strategically located on the slopes most frequented by bears and, especially, by females with cubs. The land is planted with cherry trees, apple trees, alder buckthorn and other fruit-producing species.
The plantations are developed on abandoned grassland, in forests owned by FOP, or on public or private land through land stewardship agreements.
The plantation works are usually carried out with local forest cooperatives and unemployed local residents, thus contributing to the creation of local employment.
Many volunteers from the local area participate in the habitat program. Involving the local communities in the conservation work promotes values of solidarity, respect for the land and long-term involvement in brown bear protection.
The Foundation’s scientists design and carry out habitat characterisation and population monitoring projects, with special attention directed towards females with cubs. Genetic and behavioural analysis studies are also ongoing.
The team also studies the human dimension, and how different social, psychological, economic and political factors can influence perceptions, attitudes and tolerance of the bears. Conflicts between humans and bears are analysed and solutions for a peaceful coexistence are proposed.
Since its inception, FOP has reached several generations of schoolchildren in the Cantabrian Mountain Range with their environmental education programme, which promotes knowledge about biodiversity and conservation challenges.
The latest updates from FOP
We love keeping up with our project partners and hearing all about their latest news.
Yesterday evening, the team at FOP received one of the most important conservation awards in Spain: the Fondena Award. This is an award that is given only once every two years, and is given for outstanding services in protecting nature. FOP have received the award specifically for their work in improving human-wildlife relationships in the Cantabrian mountains. We offer the FOP team huge congratulations!
Further exciting news was that the data from the 2018 bear survey in the Cantabrian Mountains was released this week with 38 females and a total of 64 cubs detected throughout the year. The best news of all is that the small eastern sub-population has increased from 6 to 7 females with cubs!