Spain’s Iberian brown bear population, which was once almost extinct, has made such a strong recovery that a ranger patrol was set up to deter them from roaming into small villages in the country’s north.
The regional government of Castile and Leon arranged for the patrol, which consists of nine rangers, to guard residents and their crops in the mining town of Villablino and the surrounding area, in the province of Palencia, according to a report.
Their mission is to keep the endangered ursines secure and healthy, while enabling human residents to coexist with them.
If locals spot a bear, which can weigh from 330 to 550 pounds and stand over 6.5 feet tall, they are asked to keep calm and call the rangers’ 24-hour phone line for assistance.
The rangers, armed with radios, rubber ball shotguns and tracking devices, fire warning shots in order to clear the animals from villages.
Angeles Orallo, 73, has been attempting to keep the bears away from her vegetable garden.
“We are older people… the fact that we can’t go out for a quiet walk is sad,” she lamented. .
Thirty years ago, there were only 60 bears left in Spain, but today, the country is home to 400.
“The increase in the bear population leads to an increase in conflicts” with humans, patrol coordinator Daniel Pinto said.
In 2021, a team of veterinarians, biologists and mountain rangers created a satellite system to monitor the animals.
Once caught, the bears are anaesthetized and given a GPS collar so they can be easily located in the future. So far, rangers have captured 12 bears that were then freed far from villages.
The increase in the bears has already boosted tourism in the area, since people come to the region to catch a glimpse of them in the wild.
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