By 1990 native bears in the Central Pyrenees had become extinct. A reinforcement action with specimens of the same genetic strain from Slovenia was initiated in 1996. This project was funded and promoted by France, Spain and the EU, with support from the LIFE programme. However, the concerted actions were insufficient and the bear became extinct in the whole of the Pyrenees by 2004.
Since then, many efforts have been made and the population of bears has reached about 30 specimens, almost 90% of which live totally or partially in Catalonia. They enjoy areas of high quality habitat that have been mostly included in the Natura 2000 network. However, this relative demographic success has not been accompanied by a success in the genetics of the population ? more than 75% of newborns are descended from a single male.
One of the main challenges to successful restoration of the conservation status of bear populations is conflict with the local population and negative public opinion. Moreover, territorial fragmentation of the bear populations creates further conflicts depending on the territory and reduces administrative cohesion. Successful co-existence with the primary sector has yet to be achieved. Furthermore, there are serious doubts whether connectivity between areas will ever be feasible.
The PIROSLIFE project aims to consolidate bear populations and strengthen their long-term conservation in the Pyrenees. It will develop measures to improve coordinated action between different administrative units in order to help support the co-existence of bear populations with human interests. It hopes to develop a management approach that can be an example to other territories.
The project plans to draft a 10-year Bear Action Plan (2014-2023) based on studies of the genetic and demographic structure of the bear populations. It will develop a network of bear habitat spaces with improved ecological connectivity within the Natura 2000 network. It will support this action by developing an administration network to coordinate monitoring and bear conservation across the Pyrenees.
One of the specific interventions of the project will be to introduce a male bear from a different territory and with good genetic variance into the resident population. The project will also draft a manual on how to carry out this sort of reintroduction.
Awareness-raising efforts will create a more positive attitude towards the bear, focusing on the possible eradication of risk of attack to livestock and beekeeping as well as danger to humans. It will define action rules to prevent and reduce conflict in zones of proximity to humans, including agreements with livestock owners and hunters.