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The return of the Brown Bear

The Scandinavian brown bear was more or less extinct by 1920-1930. Probably only a handful was left in Norway, and in Sweden there were just a bit more than a hundred. Nobody knows the exact numbers, but there were few for sure. Today methods with DNA can be used even for animals, and after some years of hard work from nature management and hunters collecting samples, the researchers have determined that there have been at least 404 different bear individuals in Norway the last seven years. But they come and go from Sweden, so the Norwegian population of bears is around 150-160. In Sweden the population has been growing for a long time, and there are now about 3300 bears. The two countries cooperate through the Scandinavian Brown Bear Research Project.

All these facts are collected in a new book that summarizes the history of the Scandinavian bear, and the development in the last decades, I bjørnens spor (Following the tracks of the bear). It was released a few days ago, and I made an interview with the author yesterday. It was really interesting, and even if I spent the weekend reading the 400 pages I still have a lot to learn about this fascinating big animal.

The author of the bear book, Ole Jakob Sørensen, is a researcher at Høgskolen i Nord-Trøndelag and have been studying the brown bear for more than 30 years. In 2002 he was the host when the 14the International Conference on Bear Research & Management was arranged in Norway. My picture below is from when some of the participants visited one of the communities that got big problems with the return of the bears, Lierne. Because the predator made it almost impossible to keep herding animals like sheep. They easily get killed by bears. But on my picture everybody are happy.

All my bear pictures are from a nature park in Norway, Namsskogan Familiepark. You can see more of my picturs of the four big predatory animals in Norwegian in my photo gallery, and here is the link.

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62 thoughts on “The return of the Brown Bear

  1. I foresee problems . . . I hope it works out, but the interaction of efficient predators ultimately goes badly precisely because they cannot be controlled. Wolves packs around Yellowstone are a recent example here in the US. You end up having to control them, or accept ever-expanding losses.

    . . . the answer, of course, is to have less people . . . that seems unpopular as well.

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    • Less people, then it is of course more easy to manage nature, Disperser. But as it is most people in norwegian cities don’t see predators as problems, opposed to many people in the local communities that have a lot of predors near by. There is of course a lot of management connected to predators, and also to natural prey like the moose.

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  2. Did my pepper spray/mushroom story get you thinking about bears? This was interesting to read about, Bente. Thanks for this post. Those browns look a lot like our grizzly – very close relatives, I’m sure. Very scary bears, but it’s good to know they are out there – just not too close.

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    • It was interesting your pepper spray post was just now, Anneli. I asked this bear resarcher about it. He imported this kind of sprays fra USA in the 1980′s, when the bears started to reapper and they started the field work. These days pepper spray is regarded as weapons in Norway, and you have to ask the police for a license.
      Yes, the grizzly is a subspieces of the brown bear. Do you know the latin name of the grizzly? it is actually: Ursus arctos horribilis…..

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      • I looked it up and I see that in many countries it is illegal to carry pepper spray. In Canada it is illegal to use it except in cases of self-defense. It is marketed as Bear Guard or bear spray, and if used only for this purpose there is no problem. I think the small containers of mace are more likely to be illegal. I haven’t checked it out. I have no intentions of taking my bear spray to town or anywhere except out in the woods and then I’m glad to have it for safety. I think the tree planters usually carry it and for good reason.

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      • Even for bear spray we need a lisense from the police (as for weapons). It is actually possible to get these things in Norway, so I might check it out. I have only heard about one scientist using a remedy like this in the woods, untill now.

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  3. Wonderful photos of the bear. It is a sad situation when the farmers can not keep a flock of sheep. In the furture the predators will probably need to be controlled. Farming and ranching here in the US just does not mix well with an abundance of predators.

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    • Farming and pretators eating farm animals never mix well, but the authorities are trying to find solutions. Controll of numbers are already sort of taken care of, but you can’t control which area the predators use. They are usually going were the food is. Thanks for your comment, Pets.

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  4. Oh the Scandinavian Brown Bears are so handsome! I’m delighted steps are being taken to bring them back. We have Virginia Black Bears here – much smaller, shorter, sleeker coats. I just had my first up-close glimpse of one as he strolled past my living room window. Thanks for sharing this post. Fascinating photos and information.

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    • “Strolling past my living room window”, wow, thats really an experience I really can do without. It must have been ixciting. :) But I prefer wildlife to be in nature, most of the time (except for roedeers and birds). Thanks for your comment, Dorann.

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  5. Those are absolutely beautiful animals! Here there are lots of Black Bears, and the Grizzly is making a comeback. There is a big study going on with them now where those who are doing the study are collecting hair samples for DNA studies.

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    • The same is going on here. First they were taking samples only in half the country each year. Now they have seen the importance of doing all the country every year. Important work, but but I guess they don’t find all of them. I know norwegian scientists study what’s going on in USA and Canada, and Russia.

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    • We are the worst of the worst, since it is our use of resources and land that makes life difficult for so many species. And we are going to be many more, needing even more natural resources and land. Thanks for your comment, Skjultaviske.

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    • Beautiful animals, Gunta, but not without problems with increasing numbers, mainly for sheep-farmers, reindeer herders and moose hunters. In that order. Only one person killed by bear in Norway for more than 100 years, a young shepherd boy. But a man was killed in Sweden in 2007, on his way to his outdoor toilet, not that far from were I live.

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    • I agree with you. I know the bear will most likely run away long before I can get a glimpse, and I actually prefer it that way. Then I can go to this nature park and watch them closely, behind bars. The bears are very interesting and impressive, and even cute some times…

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  6. Gorgeous photos. I love bears – managed to see the polar kind in the wild a few years ago and hope to tick off more varieties over time. This is a bit tricky with living in New Zealand and not getting overseas often, so is very much a long term goal!

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    • Oh, you must have been going a long way to see a polar bear in the wild. There are stories of them walking the streets in northern Norway, but that is not true, and I have never seen one. To do that I have to go to the island Svalbard. I might, some day. Thanks for your comment, Hayley.

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    • You are so true, Marion: not to be petted. They invite school-children in this nature park, and tell them about the realities about having bears in the nature. And that the ones behind bars actually are the most dangerous ones, since they are not afraid of people.

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  7. Bente, te desplazas por tus correías tal como quieres y te parece, con altos logros… Debe ser un placer extraordinaro, porque ya a nosotros, por tu información y trabajo, nos deja fascinados. La suerte es que de este ejemplar animal, nosotros muy cerca tenemos nuestros pocos ejemplares: el esfuerzo es grande, pero parece que rinde.
    Gracias. Un gran saludo.

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  8. Amazing pictures… when you say nature park they are free to roam in that park right? They are not caged. In the US, we have state parks which animals live in naturally… so people enter at their own risk which I think is the right way :)

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    • These bears are not free to roam the nature as they like, Bashar. They are not caged, they have a very big enclosure, like all the animals in this park. So it is kind of zoo, but not caged. Personally I find it inhuman to have animals in cages, the smaller the worse, the more concrete, the worse. At least these animals are in more or less the same nature as they do in the wild, and since it is Scandinavian animals they also get the natural seasons, as they should. The only thing is that the bear den is indoors…but they want to go to sleep for the winter..But in all this region there is now quite a lot of bears in the wild, for the first time in decades.

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  9. It’s really good to hear that such an iconic creature is increasing in numbers in Norway and Sweden. Your photographs are lovely too. Is there an English translation of ‘I Bjørnens Spor’?

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  10. Helt underbara du fått till! Det är få som sett en vild björn, även bland dem som lever i de “björntätaste” områdena. Jag hoppas få tillfälle, bara inte för nära…
    Allt gott till dej och en kram!

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  11. Lovely to see this post. Takes a lot more management and awareness when the animals are predatory! Some of the work being done here with the baboons (although they are not predators, they’ve become aggressive) is based on bear management …. the use of GPS collars for tracking; using ‘bear bangers’ as aversion scare tactics. I feel for the rural communities though when there is conflict, brings in a need for more precautions protecting domestic livestock. Here some farmers use Anatolian shepherd dogs to help protect sheep from predators. Also using technology like location beacons which trigger cell phone signals when sheep go beyond a certain range. It’s trying to find innovative solutions to exist in balance?

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