The Pyrenean brown bear population is annually monitored by cross-border Wildlife Services involving Andorran, Spanish and French teams. In France, the French Biodiversity Agency (OFB), through the Brown Bear Network (BBN), is in charge of this task. The monitoring relies on non-invasive field collection of brown bear presence signs conducted using either an opportunistic (damages on livestock, testimonies) or systematic (sampling design) protocol.
In 2020, on the French side of the Pyrenees, 483 prospection days were dedicated to systematic monitoring through predefined trails and 465 through camera trapping, with a respective percentage of positive visits of 29% and 16%. In 2020, 1,977 signs (excluding GPS data) were collected by the BBN, among which 1,525 were confirmed as bear signs, that is an increase of 6% compared to 2019 and of 28% compared to 2018. Hair samples (34%), predations (25%), photos-videos (19%), scats (14%) and tracks (5%) represent the major part of all collected signs. 804 bear signs were collected by Spanish services across all provinces: 33% of hair samples, 29% of photos-videos, 15% of scats, 9% of tracks, 6% of predations, and 8% of other types of cues. In Andorra, only two bear signs were collected.
On the French side of the Pyrenees, 369 attacks (classified as bear attacks) on livestock and 5 attacks on beehives were registered in 2020, compared to 349 and 13, respectively, in 2019. In contrast, in Spain, the total number of bear attacks (both on livestock and beehives) has continuously decreased since 2018, with 90 attacks in 2018, 69 in 2019 and 48 in 2020. Since 2016, several movements of males (the bears Nere, Cannellito and Rodri) have been detected between Occidental Pyrenees and Centro-oriental Pyrenees, indicating the confirmation of a new functional connectivity between these two historically isolated nuclei. In 2020, this connectivity was particularly 81 effective, since the population range is continuous from Navarra in the west to the upper Ariège in the east. As annually observed since 2016, the male Nere was detected several times during the year on both sides of these 2 historical nuclei.
But the year 2020 was particularly marked by the return of the male Cannellito in Béarn, whereas he had not been observed there since 2016. The participation of Nere to the reproduction in the Central Pyrenees validates the decision taken in 2018 to consider a single area of bear presence extending from the Eastern Pyrenees to the Atlantic Pyrenees and Navarra, with a distance between the most extreme confirmed bear signs of 272 km in 2019. The Minimum Detected Size (MDS) in 2020, for the whole Pyrenees, is of 64 bears, including 7 bears that died or were considered as dead over the year (2 adults, 1 subadult and 4 cubs of the year).
In 2020, the Pyrenean brown bear distribution range covers 8,200 km², that is 2,200 km² less than in 2019, but 800 km² more than in 2018. Nevertheless, this strong decrease compared to 2019 should be moderated, because the bear Goiat is the main responsible for those inter-annual changes. Although Goiat made again large southward movements during the spring 2020, those movements were much smaller than in 2019, when Goiat alone increased the range by about 2,000 km² compared to 2018. A minimum of 9 litters totalizing 16 cubs of the year were detected. At least 4 of the 10 bears born and detected in 2019 were detected as alive in 2020. In contrast, 6 bears (4 adults and 2 subadults including Douillous) detected in 2019 were not detected in 2020 but are not considered as disappeared for now. In addition, 4 subadults, including 2 born in 2019, are considered as disappeared in 2020. In 2020, the population includes at least 29 females, 29 males and 6 individuals of undetermined sex, including 35 adults (23 females and 12 males), 13 subadults and 16 cubs of the year. The detection of 6 bears in 2020 (4 females and 2 males), not detected in 2019, allows us to add 6 individuals to the 2019 MDS and thus to obtain a Minimum Retained Size (MRS) for 2019 of 58 bears on the whole Pyrenean mountain range. Among these 6 bears, 2 of them (New17-02 and New18-03) were not detected as well in 2018 and were thus considered as disappeared because they had not been detected for more than two years. These 2 bears should therefore also be added to the 2018 MRS, which thus reaches 51 individuals. The demographic trend shows that the Pyrenean brown bear population is increasing progressively. Based on MRS, the average annual population growth rate between 2006 and 2019 is estimated at 10.96% for the whole Pyrenees.
Cachou was found killed in the mountains of Les (Val d’Aran)