Amongst the wildlife of the Pyrenees, the bear is the quintessential “lord of the forest”, a mythical, emblematic animal. Unquestionably, its presence in the Roncal mountains is the best measure of the good environmental condition of the area.
After many years sharing the same habitat with man, at the beginning of this 21st century we can now declare the Pyrenean bear to be extinct in the Pyrenees mountain range. Since 1996 a process has been underway to gradually introduce bears from Slovenia, whose genetics are more or less similar to the recently-extinct autochthonous Pyrenean brown bear. Neré, born in the Pyrenees to Slovenian parents, can currently be seen in the Roncal mountains.
Bears are omnivores and therefore eat food from both plants and animals, although the type of food is conditioned by the season of the year. However, bears are not always welcomed by shepherds and cattle farmers, given the fact that, in spring and autumn in particular, they need to eat sheep in order to survive the winter hibernation or to recover any lost fat.
As is logical, the shepherds protect their sheep whilst, on the other hand, bears do not understand that animals freely roaming the mountains actually have an owner.
Currently, the Roncal Valley has an indemnity and compensation policy which is unique in Europe and is directed at making shepherds and farmers more tolerant of one of nature’s treasures, namely the bear.
Bears are totally inoffensive and shy animals. They’re ghost-like: it’s possible to see their footprints, tree trunks scored by their claws, the occasional dead livestock, their dens in the wood…however bears are rarely seen. Bears aim to go unnoticed and to avoid any form of human contact. Their nocturnal habits help them to achieve this.
However, bears are always there in the woods and forests. And this means that the Roncal mountains are a high quality natural habitat, a habitat that is complete in all respects.