Four hikers from France had a close encounter last Tuesday with a protective mother bear in Montgarri, in the Vall d’Aran. According to the Conselh Generau d’Aran which runs the autonomous Catalan valley. The events took place at eleven o’clock in the morning.
A general emergency was declared when the family of French tourists warned of the disappearance of one of them near Tuc de Barlongueta. The cause of the disappearance was the youth fleeing in terror, faced with an irate bear and cubs face to face on the path.
Val d’Aran is an isolated autonomous area within Catalonia and many in the tiny kingdom would like independence. Indeed they have their own language, Aranese, a ski resort, and an edict of autonomy granted by King Jaume in 1313.
In fact the bear only maintained her defensive attitude until the cubs were far enough away and then she followed them. She did not attack the young man, but remained blocking the path despite the gestures and shouts of the humans until the cubs were safely out of harms way.
But the young man had panicked, fled upstream, and up the mountain, thinking the bear was right behind him. His family, father, mother and brother, searched but were not able to locate him and dialled the Emergency number 112 .
All kinds of units responded to the Emergency and joined in the hunt for the missing youth, supposedly eaten by a bear. These included the police, ambulance, firemen of Val d’Aran, French police, the helicopter of the Aerial Unit of Rural Agents, the Environmental Agents of the General Conselh d’Aran, the Mossos d’Esquadra Catalan police ….
According to the counselor of Val d’Aran, Carlos Barrera, the father was worried the bear and cubs had taken the same flight direction as the son and wanted to eat him.
When the youth arrived at a place with mobile telephone coverage he sent his location and was successfully rescued almost immediately.
Rural Agents then combed the area with trained dogs but have only been able to locate some bear hair, which will be used for their genetic identification, as well as a photo in one of the photo-shoot cameras near the area. In this camera shot, a female adult is observed, probably the one who terrified the hikers.
The Conselh Generau d’Aran advises us of the attitude we should take when faced with a mother bear: ..If the plantígrade has already detected you, keep speaking slowly and loudly, always letting it be clearly seen that there is no threat to her or her offspring. Gestures should not be made. If you have to run, go downhill..
Three wolves reach the Eastern Pyrenees
Thanks to joint work, three different wolves, all males and alpine (franco-Italian) origin, have been detected in the Eastern Pyrenees (Catalonia-France). Two of these wolves move on both sides of the border. The third wolf was last detected between Solsonès and Alt Urgell.
A fourth wolf got run over last week near Mont-ras, in Baix Empordà near Girona.
Psychology Plan to Alter Behaviour of Bad Bear
Still in Vall d’Aran several international scientific committees and the Brown Bear Foundation have activated a plan to ameliorate the bad behaviour of the bear Goiat who is being blamed for killing and eating 15 animals, since April 2018.
The 15 victims are six mares, four foals, four sheep, one goat, as well as two beehives. Goiat was brought from Slovenia 2 years ago and freed in Catalonia.
Livestock owners are absolutely furious, though they receive compensation and the local population are sharply divided in rival pro and anti bear factions.
Above the Pyrenee treeline summer grazing is a good business, shepherds are allotted 500 sheep each to herd and milk, horses (mares with foals) are allowed to roam freely. . One anarchist shepherdess described the pay and conditions as miserable, though she is radically pro-bear and loves the job.
Capturing Goiat has not been ruled out, although this requires international institutional consensus. The activated plan aims to scare away Goiat the bear when he returns to feed on the animal he has illegally killed giving him a terrible fright associated with killing domesticated animals.
The Generalitat, the Conselh Generau d’Aran and the Officine National de la Chasse et de la Fauno Sauvage of France have already put in place the psychologiocal devices to dissuade Goiat, the latest bear released in the Pyrenees, from approaching livestock .
The device consists of ”applying rubber bullets to air shots, noises, lights and the use of repellents or electricity so that when Goiat approaches to eat the remains of his prey, he will receive a severe aversive experience and hopefully modify his behavior”.
The 15 attacks blamed on Goiat are: two in France, at the beginning of April; 12 in the Val d’Aran; and one in the Pallars Sobirà, the last one this week was in Val d’ Aran.
The analysis carried out by the Expert Team of Transboundary Bear Monitoring in the Pyrenees (GSTOP) has shown that Goiat presents ‘an anomalous predatory behavior due to its tendency to attack equine livestock, which usually graze unattended and outside of closed protection’ .
But they defended Goiat against the anti bear movement thus: On the contrary, ‘he does not present other behaviors that could be considered problematic: he does not seek or is accustomed to human presence, does not attack repeatedly, and does not present a clearly spontaneous and repeated aggressive behavior, with direct approaches and gestures, unequivocal looks or movements that could end in attacks’.
‘Goiat avoids herds of sheep under surveillance by protection dogs and shepherds, which demonstrates the effectiveness of this preventive measure that has been applied for years’.
Goiat was released in the Pyrenees to try to break the existing inbreeding in the current population and there are many indications that he has already acted actively in this regard.