Fundación Oso Pardo: when hunting is reconciling with bear conservation

On Thursday the 21st of May, the European Commission hosted the second Natura 2000 Award Ceremony in Brussels which aims to recognise excellence in the management of Natura 2000 sites and conservation achievements, showcasing the added value for local economies, and increasing public awareness of Europe’s valuable natural heritage.

23 finalists were nominated amongst the five categories: conservation, socio-economic benefits, communication, reconciling interest/perception and, cross-border cooperation and networking. Thereafter, a jury selected one winner per category which was officially announced during the ceremony.

For 2015, the winner of the “Reconciling interests/perceptions” category is the “Fundación Oso Pardo” (Brown Bear Foundation, FOP by its initials in spanish) which has begun its activity in 1992 with aims to find the best ways to reconcile hunting and other traditional human activities in rural landscapes, all of them part of the cultural identity of the people from the Cantabrian Mountains, and the conservation of the brown bear.

“Agreements reconciling the
practice of hunting with the
conservation of bears have been signed with the Spanish and Cantabrian hunting federations, involving more than 4,500 hunters and affecting more than 280,000 hectares of bear territory. Rangers and hunters are also working together to tackle poaching, clear vegetation and monitor bear numbers. FOP has also delivered more than 1,400 electric fences to hunters, beekeepers and gamekeepers to prevent damage to their livelihoods.”

This project demonstrates that wildlife conservation is not incompatible with hunting activities and that hunters can become relevant partners for the management, monitoring and law enforcement activities.

More specifically, the project called “Bear and Hunting” is being currently successful in Asturias region because of collaboration agreements signed with 11 Asturian Hunting Associations, which bring together around 4,000 local hunters and are responsible for the management of 280,000 ha. Under these agreements, hunters and the FOP are committed to work together in order to monitor the presence of bears in the reserves while combatting poaching and poisoning.

With the financial support of the Biodiversity Foundation from the Spanish Environmental Ministry, FOP has developed with hunting associations a study and a project aiming at improving actions for habitats preservation and has provided hunters with about 1,400 electric fences to protect crops and pastures from damages caused by wild boars, and thus discouraging ranchers and farmers to use illegal snares, potentially harmful for the brown bear.

The “Bear and Hunting” Project has begun in 2010 his career in Cantabria region, with a cooperation agreement between the Cantabrian Hunting Federation. Through this cooperation, the use of transmitters has been promoted in order reduce conflicts with bears during the hunting period, together with training activities, including information campaigns.

As one example of concrete result, different “Handbooks of best practices for hunting in bear regions” were developed in different regions of the Cantabrian Mountains in collaboration with the Biodiversity Foundation and regional Governments.

For more information: (in Spanish and English)