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Bearwatching Tours in The Carpathians, the last stronghold of the large carnivores populations of Europe.

 

Let’s go bearwatching in the Carpathian Mountains! Here is where intact forest habitats and low degree of anthropogenic fragmentation made possible the existence of around 6300 brown bears, almost 3000 wolves and around 1800 lynx. These numbers represent about 50% of the population of large carnivores in Europe (except Russia).

 

More than bearwatching. Let’s get to learn about them!

 

The Brown Bear (Ursus arctos) is considered to have originated in Asia, spreading across the entire northern hemisphere. And they also reached the North American continent, where the frightening Grizzly Bear lives.

But did you know that the Grizzly Bear and the Brown Bear is the same species?

Surprising as it sounds, they are both Brown Bears (Ursus arctos), but because of the expansive habitat the species occupies in North America, the species split into two subspecies arctos and horribilis. And there is even a third subspecies living there, less known, the Kodiak Bear (Ursus arctos middendorfi). It’s a subspecies that lived in genetic isolation for centuries on Southwest Alaska’s Kodiak, Afognak and Shuyak islands. Have a look at this article, for more details about the bears living in North America.

Back to Europe!

Now let’s go back to our bearwatching tours main character, the European Brown Bear (Ursus arctos arctos). It is basically, the only bear species we have living in the wild in Europe. That is, of course, if we don’t count Greenland and Svalbard, where the Polar Bear (Ursus maritimus) lives.

The Brown bear is an omnivorous species. This means it feeds on berries, plant roots and shoots, small mammals, fish, calves of many hoofed animals, and carrion. It often hides food in shallow holes, and it also digs in the ground in search of rodents or insect larvae. In some parts of Romania, younger bears are nicknamed “Anteaters” because of being spotted digging and feeding from the ground.

Are they dangerous?

Speaking of their diet, it’s important to clarify that they don’t feed on humans. But they sometimes attack humans. Not with the purpose of eating them, though. There are three main reasons for bear attacks to happen:

  1. A female bear with cubs – it attacks because she wants to protect the cubs.
  2. Any bear taken by surprise – it attacks just to rescue itself. That is why it is recommended to make noises when hiking in an area where bears live. That is, to let them know about your presence.
  3. An injured bear trying to escape

Otherwise, an encounter with a bear should be pretty safe. If it felt our presence and doesn’t see it as a threat, it will avoid or ignore us.

So, no worries. Our bearwatching tours are safe!

This is what is actually happening when we go bearwatching. Surely the bears noticed the hide and most probably, even with our full discretion, they are aware of our presence there. But since we don’t take them by surprise, nor do we attack them, we are safe. And even if a female with cubs arrives, our distance from them is considerable, so again, we will not be seen as a threat.

What’s with the cubs?

Female bears reach sexual maturity around the age of four and males a year later. They mate between May and July and cubs are being born in January – February. Litters are one or two but can sometimes be even up to four.

The cubs are usually staying with their mothers until the third summer, when they become independent and turn solitary. During those two and a half years, the female bears will not mate anymore. For this reason, it sometimes happens for adult male bears to kill the cubs, even if they are their own. A short time after the loss of cubs, the metabolism of the female changes and it becomes ready to mate again.

Watch out for cubs, though…

The cubs are very playful and curious and tend to approach human settlements when their mother is not watching them. This behaviour sometimes leads to them becoming the problem-bears. In short, they are the bears that get used to people, they scavenge the garbage bins in touristy places or get into peasants households. Eventually, their naivety will attract dangers to them.

And they can also attract dangers to people. A cute and cuddly young cub might be a real threat to humans. Not directly, but always remember that its mother is somewhere near. Lacking shyness, the cub gets close to people. And often people want to take pictures with it or even worse, pet it.

Do Brown bears hibernate?

That’s a good question. In northern areas of Europe, where it’s a lot colder and days are shorter in winter, they do hibernate. In Romania, though, they retire in winter but for short periods of time. It’s called a winter sleep. They become less active and rely partially on the fat reserves accumulated during autumn. Nevertheless, they still come out of their shelters in winter.

That’s it for now. We’ll tell you some more details and stories about them when we go bearwatching together.

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