Brown bear (Ursus arctos) fact sheet

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1 Brown bear (Ursus arctos) fact sheet Biology Status Distribution Management Conservation Biology Size: Reproduction: Diet: Social organisation: Home ranges: Males kg/females kg Mating: May-July Birth: January-February Litter size: 1-4, normally 2-3 Omnivorous (berries, nuts, ants, green vegetation, carcasses and young of wild ungulates, honey, livestock in certain regions) Solitary. Recent evidence indicates complex structure among related females. Vary from 120 to 1600 km² for males and 60 to 300 km² for females. Status Brown bears originally occurred throughout Europe (except on the largest islands such as Ireland, Iceland, Gotland, Corsica and Sardina), but disappeared later from most areas because of the human impact, the loss of suitable habitat due to deforestation and agriculture, and the persecution by hunters. In 2000, the total number of brown bears in Europe was about 50,000 (approx. 14,000 outside Russia) within an area of more than 2.5 million km² (800,000 km² outside Russia). These bears are found in two large ( 5000), three medium ( ), one small ( ), and six very small (<100) populations. The present geographical distribution is shown in Fig. 1. Population densities vary and seem to depend on food availability, rate of harvest by humans and stage of population expansion/ retreat. The highest densities ( bears/1000km²) are found in Romania and the Dinaric countries, whereas extremely low densities (0,5-1 bear/1000 km²) are found in some areas of Fennoscandia.

2 Fig.1: Overview of brown bears in Europe in The location of the smaller populations is marked with an arrow. CAN = Cantabrian population, PYR = Pyrenees populations, SA = Southern Alps, APP = Appenines, DEA = Dinaric- Eastern-Alps, CAP = Carpathian, RR = Rila-Rhodope Mountains, SP = Stara Planina Mountains, SCA = Scandiavian, NE = Northeastern. (Safari Club International Foundation; Wildlife Conservation Issues-Technical Series, Series Number: 004A) Distribution Brown bears of several subspecies inhabit all temperate zones of the northern hemisphere. Persecution by man during the last centuries has reduced the distribution greatly. Today brown bears are found in localized population in Europe, the Near East, across northern Asia and in Japan as well as in North America. Only one subspecies, Ursus arctos arctos, can be found in Europe. There are currently 10 European bear populations that differ widely in size and the total number of individuals is estimated at around The major part of the European population can be found in mostly forested areas of north-eastern Europe. Two of these ten populations occur in the Alps (see Figure 2): the first one is a subpopulation of the big population that extends from Austria, through Slovenia Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, the Yugoslavia Federation, and the Former Yugoslavia Republic of Macedonia to Northwest Greece (Dinaric-Eastern Alps population-dea on Fig. 2). The second one is a small relict population found in Italy in the Trentino (Southern Alps-SA on Fig. 2). The detailed distribution of brown bears in Austria is shown on Fig. 3 and the distribution of the Trentino population on Fig. 4. Note: the definition of European bear population is under reexamination.

3 Fig. 2: Detailed distribution of brown bears in southeastern Europe c CAP = Carpathian, SA = Southern Alps, APP = Appenines, DEA = Dinaric- Eastern-Alps, CAR = Carpathians, RR = Rila-Rhodope Mountains, SP = Stara Planina Mountains. (Safari Club International Foundation; Wildlife Conservation Issues-Technical Series, Series Number: 004A) Fig 3: Distribution of bears in Austria (monitoring of the bear advocates, background: Corinne data, EEA)

4 Fig.4: Distriution of the Trentino population. : High frequency area : Low frequency area Management Given the large variation in population size and distribution of the 10 European populations that span 22 countries, it is not surprising that management regimes vary widely. While the small relict populations in western Europe are strictly protected (in all Alpine countries) and conservation measures include re-introduction, brown bears are game species in the large populations in Eastern or Northern Europe (in Slovenia special permits are issued for annual harvest). In the Bern Convention, the European brown bear is listed in Annex II (strictly protected fauna species). A few countries have a reservation for inclusion of Ursus arctos in Annex II, among which is Slovenia. The brown bear per se is not mentioned specifically in the UNCED-Convention (United Nations Conference on Environment and Development). All European brown bear populations are listed in Annex II (potentially endangered species) in the CITES. The European Commission is asked, with the European Parliament Resolution ( ), to promote programs for the protection of the brown bear in Europe and to continue existing programs. In 1994, a new Resolution asked, to not support and finance spatial development with negative impact on bear populations. Actions with negative impact on bear populations should be corrected by the establishment of protected areas and corridors for genetic exchange. Measurements against killing and capture of bears and for the protection of bear habitat are supposed to be taken. Financial support for damage compensation and compensation for economic restriction due to bear conservation should be taken. The weakness of these resolutions become obvious when considering the fact that the European Parliament has no legal authority, but can only make recommendations to the European Commission. The European brown bear is a priority species for the European Union Habitat Directive. It is mentioned in Annex II (needs specially protected areas), except the population of Finland, Sweden and Estonia. and in Annex IV (strictly protected species; capture, killing and willful disturbance is not permitted). In the IUCN Red List the brown bear is under the category Least Concern.

5 Conservation Conservation programs are active in many countries, resulting in education programs, reintroduction, and assistance with introducing preventative measures in livestock husbandry. Funding from NGOs and European Union funds is available in many countries. The general geographical distribution of conservation effort parallels that of research effort, with the Balkans (with exception of Greece) and Eastern Europe having the least access to funding. In most European countries there is a wide range of individuals and institutions engaged in brown bear research, management and conservation. Austria: Slovenia: France: Italy: Successful translocation of 3 bears from Slovenia in in Central Austria with one naturally occurring male; with dispersing bears from Slovenia. Today s population numbers about individuals. Slovenia shares the Alpine as well as the Dinaric-Pindos bear population. The number of individuals was estimated to 400 in Slovenia has managed the harvest of bears to maintain a stable to slowly increasing population but the quota number increased these lasts years (quota for the hunting season 2002/2003 was of 104 bears). This will likely cause a dramatic and rapid bear population decline. In 2002, the IBA (International Bear Association) send a letter to the Slovenian Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food to let hem know they were discontented about this decision (letter available here). Translocation of 3 Slovenian bears to the Central Pyrenees in 1996/97. Translocation of 5 additional Slovenian bears to the Central Pyrenees in Three attempts to supplement the population with captive raised bears in , 1969 and 1974 failed. Several translocation of bears from Slovenia to Trentino (Southern Alps) took place between 1999 and 2002: 2 bears in 1999, 3 in 2000, 2 in 2001 and 3 in At least 18 birth were registered from 2002, among which 8 in The LIFE Nature Co-op project: principles for the establishment of an alpine brown bear metapopulation: The current populations of brown bear in north-eastern Italy, Austria and Slovenia are characterized by a low number of individuals (except for the Slovenian one) and in most case isolated from each other. This poses a serious problem as it is possible that, in the future, the lack of exchange of individuals between the different groups may cause their extinction. The LIFE Nature Co-op project intended to analyse the possibility that the conservation efforts realized in the different countries can end in the creation of a brown bear metapopulation in Southern Europe. In simple words, the development of a metapopulation would mean the establishment of a connection among the nowadays separated groups of bears, which would be free to migrate between Slovenia, Austria and Italy (see figure below) and maybe one day in Switzerland, with a notable reinforcement of the nuclei and the definitive return of the species on a wide area of Southern Europe. The countries involved in this project are Italy, Slovenia and Austria. Link for the LIFE Co-op project Home - (c) KORA/Malme

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