Return the grizzly bear to the sierra galicia of O Courel after 150 years of exile and the neighbors prepare to not return to leave. So what explains the biologist Fernando Ballesteros, of the Brown Bear Foundation, to the 15 children of Elementary school of Seoane do Courel: “long Ago the humans of this land, pursued the bears and ended up with them. Were not bad people, what happens is that those were different times and we had to defend. Now we want to keep them and, as nobody kills them, they are recovering”.

Ballesteros runs from a couple of years ago these mountains of the province of Lugo to teach their people to avoid conflicts with their new neighbors. The Brown Bear Foundation is the coordinator of a project of Life boosted up to 2022 by the European Union in the municipalities of Folgoso do Courel, Quiroga, Samos, Triacastela, As Nogais, and Pedrafita do Cebreiro. Its goal is to help expand the incipient presence of these animals in one of the territories in which they became extinct during the second half of the NINETEENTH century.

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in Addition to organizing courses and talks in villages to expose them as an “opportunity” the return of the plantigrade to this sierra struck by the abandonment of rural life, beekeepers have dealt pastors electrical to defend their hives. It is the modern version of the alvarizas, abellarizas or cortines, these constructs defensive, made of stone and circular in shape, which were used formerly in Galicia, Asturias and León in order to safeguard the honeycombs and whose remains are still numerous in the O Courel. Within the european project also desbrozan pull points strategic for hunters of wild boar in order to improve visibility and prevent fulminen some Ursus arctos by accident.

José Ángel Ibáñez said to be the beekeeper that more attacks bear has suffered in O Courel mountains. Collects a dozen of complaints, and about twenty beehives on the ground. The first blight was discovered in 2013, when the return of this species to the area was not yet taken. Neither the environmental agents is explained what kind of living being could have caused those damages. Six years after Ibanez, it is clear that the plantigrade have “as much right” to inhabit this natural paradise as he, which changed his work in Vigo as a commercial company of industrial boiler making for the production of honey in the top of the mountain.

Bear in a beehive of O Courel, in an image provided by the Brown Bear Foundation.

“The bear is a risk in my job like any other, as the hoteliers who put terraces even though they have more of a chance that they will go to someone without paying. The honey is good here because of the good vegetation and there are animals that they also value that, and I have to live with. I prefer the bear of O Courel mountains to be close to farms with gm corn,” argues this beekeeper.

The key, he says, is “to take measures to mitigate the damages”. He placed one of the electric enclosures. distributed by the Life project. The bears, who are very skilled, they circumvented the lock to push down. Ibanez has chafe chicanery covering of slate, the lower of the fence. Teach the neighbors to beat these animals in intelligence is another of the tasks of the initiative financed with eu funds and in the collaborating Government.

The Ursus arctos “is not the solution” to the problems of O Courel but “is an opportunity”, he defends the Brown Bear Foundation. Can attract tourism, ” explains Ballesteros, not because the visitors will come to see bears but because their presence is a “quality label” environmental, a magnet, for example, to travellers, English and French that they choose to target “searching on the Internet Spain and bear”. “We don’t want to attract tourism without more, we want a sustainable model, and we need to set some guidelines,” argues Mark Reinoso from the Association of the Development of the Rural do Courel.

Gemma Arza is a restaurant and huntress in the village of Paderne: “To me, the bear does not bother me, we have a mount for all. And as hospitality is an advantage because it can attract people. And we need people.” Not all hunting enthusiasts think the same way because, she explains, “there are those who fear that surveillance is more environmentally and increase controls.”

The biologist Ballesteros is conscious of “doubts and fears” the return of the bear awakens in certain sectors, although it stresses that attacks on livestock are unlikely. “The hunting industry is the one that goes through the mount and the more chance you have of encountering a bear, so we have to win,” he explains. “The majority of the tecores [reserves] are in favor, although there are some that do not want to work in their territory.”

last January, a bear broke into a hunt and the participants left to shoot, switched to zone and told the environmentalists. Received up to a greeting of the Administration for their citizenship. “The hunters are a reality of the rural world that carry out an activity legal and regulated, and we have to make it compatible. We have to explain well that the presence of the bear in a territory does not imply that it prohibits the hunting,” says Oscar Rivas, of the Asociación Galega de custodia do Territorio, which is also involved in the project.

In the school of O Courel the kiddies pierce questions to the representative of the Brown Bear Foundation. “Why can’t we sleep for three months as they, without poop or pee?”. “What they are born with hair?”. “How are adolescents?”. Ballesteros told that the bears come to O Courel mountains because these mountains are full of fertile forests, rocks, nowhere to hide, and neighbors “who don’t bother”. If the humans manage to prevent that is to eat the rich honey of their hives, these omnivores love veggies don’t go hungry.

The nature in this mountain range gives these animals smell portentous a feast of chestnuts, hazelnuts and leaves when it is autumn and, with the good weather, without neglecting their diet of ants, snails, and worms, may be bingeing on cherries, blueberries or blackberries. The Life project also envisages the planting of 100,000 trees and shrubs to fill even more of the pantry. “You can learn to live in harmony with bears,” recalls Ballesteros to the school. “And you’re the one that you will do so within a few years.”

More than 20 years of struggle against extinction

S. V.

In the O Courel the presence of brown bear has increased “dramatically” in recent years, stands out the Brown Bear Foundation. According to the latest data of the Life project, in this mountain range have been found from 2015 132 records of their incursions in this territory, a list that includes footprints, droppings, sightings, and damage to apiaries. The genetic analysis and the chambers of fototrampeo (with motion sensors) have been identified this year to three males different.

The total population of this species in the north of Spain, which in the eighties was about to disappear, round currently 340 after more than 20 years work: about 250 in the area of the cantabrian west (Asturias, Galicia and Leon), about 40 in the eastern Cantabria and the Mountains of Palencia), and almost 45 in the Pyrenees. In the territory of galician presence focuses in Os Ancares, along with the incipient recovery in the O Courel.

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