For the first time in almost 200 years, a wild brown bear has ventured into Portugal. The adult brown bear arrived from the Spanish bear population, which is slowly making a comeback. The Montesinho Natural Park, where authorities confirmed the presence of the bear, is very happy to have to brown bear wandering in their park. Please also read: The comeback of the Cantabrian brown bear: https://wilderness-society.org/comeback-of-the-cantabrian-brown-bear/
Gone since 1843
The last brown bear on official record was killed by people in northern Portugal back in 1843. The bear population on the Spanish side of the border was also facing pressures from hunting and poaching. This resulted in the fact that brown bears were absent for almost 2 centuries. Fortunately, the Spanish brown bears, the Cantabrian population, is doing better nowadays. A spokesperson from the Portuguese Nature and Forest Conservation Institute expects that the bear in Portugal arrived from the western sub-population in the Cantabrian mountains. In fact, there are currently two sub-populations in the Cantabrian mountains, the western with approximately 280 individuals and eastern with 50 individuals.
In the end of April, people discovered bear damages on the Spanish side of the border, close to Portugal. Only a few days later, the bear wandered further south, across the border. Monitoring of the brown bear continues in cooperation with the Spanish authorities. Researchers expect that the adult is looking for a suitable territory. For this time of year, normal behaviour.
Large carnivore conflicts in Iberian peninsula
Portugal and Spain have been dealing with large carnivores for many years. Especially wolves and lynx are on the list of conflicts with human and wildlife. In some parts, brutal but legal culling even takes place. The attitude of local people is crucial when it comes to coexistence. It is to be seen whether the bear will stay in the Portuguese Natural Park. If so, locals will have to adapt once more to a new wild neighbour.