Pyrenee's bears : What the hell !?

Pyrenee's bears : What the hell !?

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Ferdinand ;)Superb brown bear (this one is from Romania)
 Back to Slovenia !

Some of you, and perhaps most of you if you leave in France, Spain or Slovenia, have heard at least once about the problematic of the bears in the Pyrenees.

Often, this topic is related by the media, presenting both arguments and versions from the two camps, the supporters of the saving of this animal, and their opponents. Most of the time, relying on these media, it is difficult to figure make their own opinion about the topic, because of a lack of concrete facts and information.

If you poll people in the street, almost everyone will say "I love bears, they're lovely animals and I think they should be saved, but if I meet one I don't know what I would do, so I understand also the cattle breeders !"

Following another approach, some other people, closer to the anti-globalism political views, tend to prefer the opponents' version, which sounds less "dreamy ecologist" and closer to the local context and the reality. But often, also, without any really concrete reasons.

The aim of this article is to make it a bit more clear. Forgive me also for the poor pictures in order to illustrate it, but I did my best with what I could get. Any pictures of the European brown bear will be greatly appreciated.

The bear in the Pyrenees

bear hunting

In prehistory, bears were present in almost all parts of the northern hemisphere. With the apparition of human activities, their dispersal clustered and the domains of the bears became limited to the only mountainous ranges.

Some of these populations disappeared: There were bears in Morocco, in the UK, in Corsica, more than 1000 years ago...

The population of the Pyrenees started to regress some 200 years ago with the invention of guns, and the Pyrenees becoming an increasingly popular area for hunting (unfortunately not only at the detriment of bears, but also the extinct ibex, and the chamois, now saved, but who was close to the end in the '70s).

After the second war, bear hunting stopped almost completely, but the population quickly became too small to regenerate itself, and the population fragmented into several cores in the Pyrenees themselves: one population in the west, one in the Ariège, and one in the central Pyrenees.

In the 90's disappeared the central core, and 7 bears remained in the whole Pyrenees. Nowadays, the western core is almost extinguished too (the absence of traces this year even makes some say that it might have ended), and most of the remaining bears, now some 20 individuals, concentrate in the Ariège, the heart of the "troubles"...

Why Slovenian bears ?

Sneznik massif from the...
Pyrenean Piedmont ? No, Snežnik. So different ?

When the Pyrenean bears reached this level, it was decided that some reintroductions were necessary in order to save this "family", since the original bears were not numerous enough.
All the questions became to find "which" bears to reintroduce. It had to be a bear as similar as possible, in the morphology and habits, and habitat.

First of all, let's make a little feedback about the bears' races.

Most of the bears of the northern hemisphere are of the same race, the brown bear, with "families", which correspond only to morphological differences which appeared as the bears populations became clustered. Hence, the American Grizzly, the Russian Kodiak, and the common European bear are all cousins, the "Ursus Arctos".

The links to the black bear, the polar white bear, and the panda are much more remote in the genetical family tree, here only we can speak about "other animals".

In Europe, the brown bear family can be divided itself into 2 lines, despite these ones are very similar, and almost no-one would be able to differentiate them:
- The western line, which encompasses bears living in the Alps, Iberic peninsula, Scandinavia, Dinaric Alps, and Rhodope.
- The eastern line, which encompasses bears living in the Carpathians, the Ural, the Caucasus (to verify, I am not sure).

The Western line is divided itself between two "refugees":
- The Balkanic refuge (Italy, ex-Yougoslavia, Greece, parts of the Eastern Alps)
- The Iberic refuge (Pyrenees, Picos de Europa)

Of course, the closest bear to the Pyrenean bear is the bear from the Picos de Europa (range in the North of Spain, in the alignment of the Pyrennes), where live some 70 bears; the separation of this population with the Pyrenees is quite recent in the natural history since not long ago Basque country also was populated with bears.

But the effect of the Picos de Europa itself is too fragile, according to Spanish experts (and probably with good reasons), to afford taking regularly such quotas of 5-10 to repopulate the whole Pyrenees.

The Iberic refuge is not a possible solution, and experts had to study the rest of the west line, according to specificities, but also population statistic and methods of captures in different countries.

As expected, it turned out quickly that the Scandinavian bears had a too different natural environment and way of feeding (more based on meat, especially fish)

The bears of the Alps are also under the threat of extinction (Italy itself is also importing bears from Slovenia), Austrian bears were scarily regressing in the only last year, and the only bear crossing into Germany was shot.

Greek bears are also endangered, party with important fires that destroy their habitat every summer. Only the bears of the Dinaric Alps are remaining.

Before ending the West line, the possibility of buying some bears from Romania or Slovakia was also considered, partly because it is problematically high in some areas (North Romania for example), but abandoned only as Slovenian bears appeared to be closer genetically, and living in more similar environment to the Pyrenees.

The north end of the Dinaric Alps, in the Snežnik range in Slovenia, has the particularity to host a particularly high population, sometimes problematic.

Bear release

Every year, a certain quota of bears is to be shot, just because they are too numerous to depend all of the same place, and hungry bears tend to look for what they need near human habitat, as soon as they cannot find it in their natural environment.

Why do so many bears concentrate in Sneznik? I once read that this was partly due to some populations coming from areas more south (Croatia, Bosnia), who escaped... the noise of the human war of Yougoslavia in the '90s....

If some other SP members have some precisions about this fact I'd be glad to make it more accurate.

Croatia also hosts a lot of bears in this area, but it appeared that Croatian bears were more often a carrier of the virus of the rage. Slovenian authorities and nature monitoring also appeared to be from far the most competent in bear-capturing and the keenest in "exporting" some bears (and then deducing them from the hunting quotas), in order to contribute to the saving of bears in other endangered parts of Europe. In all points of view, a very wise philosophy.

Slovenian bears were then chosen. The captured bears were first shot by a weapon charged with some soporific product. Then, the bear was placed in a cage into a quick land-rover, ready to drive all at once the 2000km between Snežnik and the Ariège..

The bears released in 2006 were also meantime put a belt around the neck, with GPS transmitter, and taken genetic sample.

The reintroductions

bear map

Unfortunately, for political reasons, and the periodical regain and fadeout of opposition, release of new bears were not always the main concern of the authorities, and occurred so far by "waves".

For long ago, bears of the Pyrenees were always given names, for many reasons; to differentiate and locate them, for their personality, for their similarity to human behavior sometimes, for the respect their inspire...

All Slovenian bears were given a name when released. Most of the original bears in the Pyrenees also have a name. But not all of them... let's say only the most "famous" (unfortunately, the ones who cause the most trouble). Quiet bears are often anonymous, sometimes we don't even know about their existence of their accurate number...

There were so far 2 main releases of bears:
- 3 bears in 96-97 : 2 females: Melba and Ziva, and 1 male, Pyros
- 5 bears in 2006 : 4 females: Franska, Palouma, Hvala, Sarousse and 1 male, Balou

Ziva gave birth first to 2 males in 97, Néré and Kouni. If it has been proved that Kouni's father is Pyros, released nearby, doubts still remain for Néré.

Kouni, unfortunately, died 3 years later. Néré, on the other hand, reproduced with the autochthon female Canelle, giving birth to one male, the first "hybrid" Pyrenean-Slovenian bear. Ziva later gave birth to 3 other small males in 2000 and 2004, but one of them died. Their father is unknown.
Pyros was a very active male since he also reproduced with Melba, giving birth to one male, Boutxi and one female, Caramelle. Later Pyros reproduced with Caramelle herself, giving birth to 2 males, one dead in 2001, the other one still alive (but unnamed) in 2003.

The second wave was decided after the "accidental" (there is an ongoing and passionate debate on this topic) shooting of Canelle, the last original Pyrenean female, in 2004.
These releases occurred in very tense atmosphere, opponents often trying to block and demonstrate on the chosen place for the releases. The town-hall of the village of Arbas was even vandalized, and policemen required to stop fights, before the first attempt of release of Palouma. All 5 bears had to be released in areas kept secret until the very last moment, in the night and in the rush.

Bear prints

The events for the bears released in 2006, were, unfortunately, less happy than the first release, so far.

First, Balou decided to migrate out of the mountains. He was seen as close as 30km far from the suburb of Toulouse, before choosing by himself, fortunately, to return back to the Pyrenees, and avoid a probable shot or capture!

In the same year than the release, one day Palouma was found dead at the foot of a rocky cliff, as high as 2100m in altitude, at an uncommon place for a bear. Opponents stated that Slovenian bears were not used to such a high environment, while supporters introduced the hypothesis that Palouma, possibly chased by hunters, was forced to retreat in this inhospitable area.

Franska, who was several seen near habitations looking for food, was reported to be ill and coughing loudly. She was found dead in 2007 on a road, shot by a car. The expertise revealed that her body contained a huge amount of bullets...

Hvala was the most successful so far, as she gave birth to two males in 2007, baptized Pollen and Bambou. She was probably fecundated before her capture in Slovenia.
Sarousse is one of the quietest bears and life goes normally, with very little damage caused to herds of animals.

In 2008, Balou was also "accidentally" shot by a hunter, but fortunately not to death. He was reported to be hurt on one leg and to move with 3 only.
Boutxy, son of Pyros, described nowadays as a superb healthy male, was hit this year also by a minibus on a small road, fortunately again not to death. He is also said to be hurt and moving with one damaged leg.

Not very good news, knowing that an injured bear is more dangerous than a healthy bear...

The opponents and their arguments

Arbas town hall, anti-bear demonstration

Bear opponents are in the first place the cattle breeders in the Pyrenees. Their herds of sheep/goat/cows are occasionally attacked by predators, supposedly most of the time the bear (supposedly, because it is not proved that the bear is statistically the most dangerous predator). In the same way than herds in the South of the French Alps are attacked by wolves.

Other strong opponents to the bear are people who live in little localities in the Pyrenean valleys, who often were told about bears sniffing around habitations, mostly bins, looking for food. Most of the time these people are not direct witnesses of bear apparitions but are strongly convinced that human cohabitation with the bear is impossible, with such a dense network of roads and infrastructure developed nowadays.

When slovenian bears are mentionned, local people speak about a remote wild country somewhere near Russia, and some wild monstruous carnivores that have nothing in common with the gentle "natives"...

Oponents find also support next to occasional policical figures, who "adopt" the ant-bear cause, looking for a rebound of pupularity near local populations.

Finally, a lot of people who doesn't live in these regions are also strongly convinced that the bear is not a good animal because it is dangerous, and above all, that it is potentially threatening tourists who hike the mountains, as well as people who live there.
This kind of people often base their opinion on facts related in America or in Eastern Europe, seen mostly on TV.

All of these people also point the fact that bear monitoring and reintroduction involves high costs, deduced from the french taxes, and that this money could be used in a better way.

All these last arguments can quickly be swept away.

If the bear happens to be occasionally dangerous in very specific situations, it is far to be systematically dangerous towards humans. Bears are very fearful, as soon as they detect human presence, and most of the time they are not seen. They can appear threating in occasions like for example when a female is with her children, but most of the time they just course the disturbing element without attacking.

The last bear attack which costed a human life occured 150 years ago in the Pyrenees, and there were not any of such incidents for several decades in the 20th century. Recently, in 2007 in Romania, an American tourist died from a bear attack, but it turned out that at the moment of the attack 10 people were around the bear taking photos with flash...

On the other hand, the Pyrenees mountain rescuers point out that vipers are causing much more trouble to hikers than predators in general.

As for the money involved in bear-monitoring, the amounts involved are ridiculously small compared to those in education, unemployment, etc. Bears cost less than one cent of Euro per french inhabitant.

Population and infrastructures density mentioned by some inhabitants is also not a very good argumentary, since the Pyrenees are not more populated and frequented by tourists than some other areas in Europe such as Slovenia, Romania, Poland, Slovakia, Croatia, etc.

Thus, despite the fact that in some very specific places, the bear density is actually too high, but also higher than the level of other places where more bears live more peacefully than the Pyrenees.
Just for a comparison, some 80 bears live in the Slovak Tatras National park, 50km long, and visited by millions every year.

The arguments raised by the cattle breeders are finally the only respectable, and subject to a serious debate.

The depopulation of the Pyrenees.

Pyrenees depopulation

The Pyrenees, since the second half of the century, are subject to a phenomenon common to rural areas in western Europe: depopulation. This is due to several factors:
- Rural exode, as big cities like Pau, Toulouse, or Bordeaux have more attracting jobs for young people than the Pyrenean piémont.
- The low profitability of the agricultural sector in the Pyrenees.
- The apparition of more modern breeding and agricultural techniques out of mountainous ares, agriculture globalization, which makes concurrence more and more rude, and then difficult, not to say impossible, for small domains in the valleys of the Pyrenees.

Nowadays, the main income of products made in the Pyrenees is from high-quality products (cheese, milk, meat), made "the old way", brands with specific labels, everything which is called nowadays "bio" products, etc...
Without these classifications, Pyrenean products would not be concurrent on the market. Pyrenean agriculture is also highly dependant from European financial helps.

The terms in which I described these factors are not perhaps the most accurate, but here is the general tendance.

From the "landscape" point of view, all of this result in the same change: fields are abandoned, wild forest is reinvesting areas where it was eradicated; many paths and tracks are not maintained anymore, and in many places, before forest, starts growing some sort of bush, which sometimes take fire during the summer.

This is a paradoxical constatation of the modern times. While the Pyrenees never had so many ski stations, holidays residential areas, secondary asphalted roads, electric pylons and wires, antennas, while there never were so many hikers in touristic areas, the rest of the Pyrenees is going the opposite direction: wilder and wilder.

Perhaps this is one of the reasons why some other wild animals like brown vulture, the chamois, the marmot, which were close to extinction, experience nowadays a rebound of vitality. Italians wolves were seen in Catalunia, after having crossed on foot the Massif Central, as well as the 2 motorways of the Rhone and the Garonne valleys.
Even the Pyrenean lynx, which is officially said to be extinct for 50 years, was witnessed in many occasions recently.

Coming back to the macroeconomic factors of this phenomenon, which result in low profitability for the cattle breeders, Pyrenees had to develop other forms of pastoralism to keep it working. Since for many years most of the predators were eradicated, breeders took the habit to leave herds of cattle alone in the mountains. Time is money and human presence next to the heards costs.

This is perhaps the only mountain range in Europe where hundreds of sheep wander in complete freedom, and where the word "shepherd" becomes more and more odd since real "shepherds" stay in the mountain...

Predators of cattle in the Pyrenees

Sheep predators

Reintroduction of predators results, of course, in such incidents such as occasional bear attacks. Bears, but not only...

Vultures were often reported to attack young animals. In Catalunya, wolves also have caused few damages, and recently, a lynx attack was also suspected.

But still, wild predators remain a minority.

Most of the cattle attacks, indeed, are caused by abandoned dogs who live in wildness, close to the wolf lifestyle. Some people also witnessed bands of husky dogs from nearby ski stations, left in complete freedom, circumventing and attacking in a very methodic way herds of sheep.

However, this does not represent the biggest percentage of death.
Most of the cattle who die in the mountain die of illness. Human/dog presence next to the herds prevents from predator attacks but also ensures safe monitoring of the health of the cattle.

Recently, Pyrenean cattle are facing a quite severe scourge: the sheep catarrhal fever ("fièvre catarrhal ovine", FCO, also called "bluetongue disease"). This illness is propagated by a fly whose original habitat was northern Africa, and who settled in the Pyrenees.
In the only year 2008, the sheep catarrhal fever has caused more damage than bears over 10 years.

Solutions proposed for cattle breeders

Pyreneans dog (Patou)

The government, along with the ecologic departments in charge of reintroducing and monitoring the bears, propose to offer free highly trained Pyrenean dogs (commonly called "Patous"), to cattle breeders who express such need, as well as such gear like electric fences, etc.

Furthermore, it was decided that all damage caused by bears attacks were to be refunded to owners of the victims, including when the responsibility of the bear was not clearly identified (dogs attacks are not refunded for example). These amounts of money are actually quite high.

Unfortunately, both of these decisions result in undesired effects.
The dogs are often refused by breeders, because they are interpreted like a "resignation" to the fact that wild predators must be accepted, hence a violation of their so-called "freedom" to breed cattle, as they used to during the last decades.

As for money helps, the tendance is following the opposite way. Attacks are systematically reported, even if they are not bear-related. Considering that analyzing a wound and taking a decision from this only observation is a bit tricky, we can easily figure out.

When the wound is wide, there is no doubt, this is the bear signature. When the wound is small, when there is no sign of evidence of the passage of the bear (footprint, destroyed fence, excrement, hairs, etc), the indemnity is often given, inspectors often facing the anger of breeders...
Recently it was stated that a form of abuse developed in this system, every single accident being systematically reported, not to mention the hypothesis when wounds would not have been made deliberately...

Paradoxically, cattle breeders continue to demonstrate against the reintroduction of new bears...


Pyreneans majority want bears

Considering all these facts, we can legitimately ask ourselves what is the real part of the responsibility of the bear in the crisis that the job of cattle breeder is experiencing nowadays.

In the reality, as we saw, the problem is more complex. Removing the bears will not solve many of the problems cattle breeders are facing nowadays. Their activity is simply ill, and endangered.

As for me, from my own egoistic point of view, sitting in my chair in front of my computer somewhere in the city, I wouldn't like to see good cheeses and good meat vanish from our market. Furthermore, I feel frustrated to know that the supposedly good products I buy come from potentially ill animals.

I would be ready to give few more euros in my yearly taxes, just to continue to promote the traditions of all of our nice regional products, and not only eat daily for the rest of my life the same supermarket things. I am sure that almost a hundred percent of french citizens, for or against bears, for this at least, think the same.

Then, why do the cattle breeders are so silent about this side of the problem? Why do they not demonstrate more often, simply to get more fiancial helps, to save our products ? Would the other men be more fearful of animals than the bears themselves?

Undoubtedly, with all the historical background, the cultural references, and everything this imposing animal inspires, the bear play a psychological role.
Perhaps, because its presence is a very concrete fact, the bear can be taken much more easily in an argumentary such that "government is deliberately putting another threat to our activity". Hence, the bear is perceived more like a provocation from the urban citizen, from the perverted remote power centralized in Paris, "far from the valleys", and so on.

In this situation, it is clear that the bear is only a "scapegoat". Will the tendency inverts itself, and will the few remaining opponents (few, because there is always a silent majority) become conscient of the context, and the challenge for their activity, and not only focus on the bears? Let's hope that this mentality will change soon....

Team spirit


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Viewing: 1-20 of 22

DrJonnie - Sep 18, 2008 6:30 am - Voted 10/10

Natural ecology

Hi Visentin,
thank you for your interesting and informed report. The reintroduction debate is one that I guess many European countries face. Here in the UK we have populations of wild boar derived from escapees. In Scotland beavers have been reintroduced and discussions are ongoing about reintroducing wolves too.
The difficulties faced are the same as you have explained but I think that a "natural balance" will be the most difficult point.
We have seen how 'foreign' species released by accident can create great harm to indigenous populations e.g. grey squirrels, american crayfish, snapping turtles etc etc.
I hope the Pyrenean case eventually works out well for all concerned.
cheers Johnnie


visentin - Sep 18, 2008 6:41 am - Hasn't voted

Re: Natural ecology

Hello Johnie,
My first name is neither Valentin neither Visentin but Eric.
You are completely right speaking about wolves or raindeers in Scotland.
But for bears, the point is that it's not about REintroducing but "reinforcing". Bears were always living in the Pyrenees and already belong to the "natural balance", in no case they can be qualified as a 'foreign' specie. Neither the bear from Slovenia, which, as I longly detailled, is identical.
Cheers, Eric


DrJonnie - Sep 18, 2008 6:53 am - Voted 10/10

Re: Natural ecology

sorry Eric, I already edited my note when I realised my mistake.
I was not really suggesting "foreign" in the bears case, just highlighting what is seen in the UK as the major issue on reintroduction. I totally support the maintenance of bear populations in the Pyrenees and as you said re: Slovenia, there has to be a supportable population i.e. neither too small or too large.
best wishes


visentin - Sep 18, 2008 7:06 am - Hasn't voted

Re: Natural ecology

> neither too small or too large
This is exactly the good term.
Slovenia has too many bears (at least in the Dinaric part, not in the Alps). Pyrenees not enough. But countries like Slovakia, or the range of Picos de Europa have found the right balance. This is why we must believe it is possible in Pyrenees too.
p.s: I love Scotland, when I studied there I "bagged some wee munros" !


desainme - Sep 19, 2008 11:42 pm - Voted 10/10

Barely hanging on

I read that one bear was shot in the Pyrenees by a hunter who said that confused bear with boar.

Bruno the Tyrolean bear was the first bear tourist in Bavaria for 170 years and was shot during his visit there in June 2006.


visentin - Sep 29, 2008 10:02 am - Hasn't voted

Re: Barely hanging on

Some traps were put in the area where Balou (the "boar-bear") is living in order to capture him, and cure his damaged leg.


visentin - Sep 20, 2008 2:37 am - Hasn't voted

Re: Barely hanging on

The "boar-bear" you mention is Balou, I wrote this fact in the end of the Reintroductions chapter. 3 Possibilities:
- The hunter is guilty of deliberated bear-shooting
- He was tipsy after some "aperitif"
- Or, even worse, supspected to have "shoot by instinct" (in the Alps recently a musroom picker was also "shoot by instinct" by a hunter...)
Bruno the Tyrolean is a different case, he was shot "conformly" to the german law... I read also about a similar bear who ventured in Switzerland's Grisons (and played with fire..)


BobSmith - Sep 28, 2008 6:21 pm - Voted 10/10

Too many humans.

Europe is rich. Pay the damned farmers for their damned cattle. How many are killed, anyway? Probably a negligible number. Humans are bound to kill everything else on Earth, it seems.


Corax - Sep 29, 2008 5:47 am - Voted 10/10

Re: Too many humans.

I agree to the full with Bob's statement.
I don't think the economical compensation is what really matters for many of the cattle breeders. They do get cash for what's killed, but the hate and the fear of the predators are still there. The cash issue is far down the list. What matters more many times is:
their "rights as breeders".
their inherited fear for predators.
their love to hunt. Kill a bear and you're a hero.
At least that's the case up here in Scandinavia.

Personally, I wouldn't give a damn if certain products disappeared from the supermarket shelves if I knew a population of predators could be saved. Not that this scenario would ever be the case, as their are so many other breeders living in areas where there's no threat whatsoever from predators, so the argument about disappearing products is void.

Again, personally, if the completely up the wall risk that I ever would be killed by a predator in Europe became reality - so be it. There are worse ways to go and if for example a bear got me in the end I would laugh at my fate. If the fear of illogical causes of death is that strong, some people should rethink and evaluate more feasible threats and never leave the house, let alone driving a car.

I should also add that I have been in very close contact with many different predators and amongst them bears. When in the wilderness of the Tibetan high plateau encounters with bears happens at least weekly. Usually they run for their lives and many times they have seen me, but not the opposite. The only time I felt any threat from a bear was when I met a mother with two cubs on a large plain. Those didn't run away and I felt the need to move very slowly and keep the lowest possible profile.


visentin - Sep 29, 2008 6:51 am - Hasn't voted

Re: Too many humans.

Corax, I think you make a confusion.
The question is not to choose between mountain products or bears. The "bear problem" is in fact to choose between mountain products AND the means to have them, or nothing. That's what my text is all about.

Bob Sihler

Bob Sihler - Oct 22, 2008 9:48 am - Voted 10/10

Re: Too many humans.

Good post by Corax.

We have the same problem here in several places, the Rockies, especially, concerning bears and wolves. Fear, hatred, selfishness, and ignorance are not easily overcome. To many, just one bear or wolf is one bear or wolf too many, and there is no reasoning with these people. It doesn't matter what compensation programs there are, what scientific facts you present. I used to sympathize with the ranchers for their losses and support reimbursement programs, but their refusal to budge has really left me not caring too much about their plight. The only reason I continue to support the reimbursement programs is that they are a powerful tool for maintaining public support of predators' right to live in their natural habitats.

barlonguere - Oct 7, 2008 4:51 pm - Hasn't voted

some remarks

I will not debate about reintroducing but I feel that I have some remarks to post
My son is a shepherd in Ariege (central pyrenees) He spent 4 months in mountains mainly above 2000 m: no bears. Strangely, the slovenian bears seem to stay in low mountains (sometimes go down in the valley).
There are quite alot of shepherd in Pyrenees and they are looking for more but it is a hard work (One day, my son climbed more than 3000 m ! often woke up at 5 a.m., went to bed at 11 p.m.) for 1500 € monthly for 2100 sheeps but the locals are very nice with him. So for him, no bears, work is hard enough.
A bear around means no sleep.
The special dogs are very hard to manage (need to be raised with the sheep) and expensive if you dont want money from E.U. (In the Biros (the name of the valley), they don't want this money !!!!)
There is a new solution in the pyrenees called something like bear survey unit. They are "moving" shepherd payed by the national hunting office to look after the cattle if a bear is seen around. They come on demand, stay in the middle of the cattle sometime with tents in any condition !
Last, the cattle breeders want to live from their work and in their native towns.
If you want to see what is a mountain without locals, go to val d'aran in april, may or june. Empty ! 30 years ago, on this side, there were herd of 6000 sheeps ! No more except some cows. Of course, for the mountaineers, there is a national park ! DysneyLand mountain ! where there are sheeps, the mountains are not easy but you can anyway hike and alone ! I invite you to go to Cirque d'Anglade, Massif du Barlonguere.
Last of my confused remarks, the summer was quiet for bear attack. Let everything quit down !
Last last remark : thanks to the European commission, no more sheep dead body in mountains, no more food for vultures and we face now some attacks (few) from vulture. They try to push the young sheep to fall !


visentin - Oct 8, 2008 3:34 am - Hasn't voted

re: some remarks

Hello Barlonguere,
Thanks for your remarks. If I summarize correctly, you emphasize the hard conditions of the sherperd work. You are 100% right on it.
And yes, well-raised dogs are hard to find and expensive.
The only thing you wrote that frustrates me a bit is that the national park transformed the Biros valley into a "disneyland". No, this doesnt result from the park, this results from macroeconomic factors which make the cattle breeder less and less profitable (you explained perfectly why).
In the past, the cadet of the familly used to be the servant of the oldest son, and was forced to stay in the mountain with cattle. Nowadays this kind of habit has vanished. To continue raising cattle in good way (without illnesses, without wild dogs & bears attacks), we must give ourselves the means to make it, not by the force like in the past, but with financial means.
Living with a sustainable amount of bears and continue to produce our products is possible, the indiscutable proof is that countries mentioned in my article manage it. The future of cattle-growing in the Pyrenees is in the hands of men, not bears.

barlonguere - Oct 8, 2008 10:20 am - Hasn't voted

a little mistake

to Visentin
Biros is not Disneyland ! it is empty !! I was speaking of Val D'Aran (National Park of Aigues Tortes) where there is not a lot of agricultural activities but a big ski resort and some trekking activity (and little climbing). It is a beautiful place but you have to go there in Spring or Autumn ! At baqueira, noone !
Instead the biros is full of life because there is still farmers and people living all the year but it is a hard life and they don't like to see people from else (the doryphores as they call them) telling what to do ! there are a lot of reasonable people there and they need to be listened to. Of course you have also stupid people.
I think you know that "la maison de l'ours" in Melles is closed ! end for the economic aspects !

barlonguere - Oct 8, 2008 10:25 am - Hasn't voted

another little mistake

Due to my english, I did not want to tell that Biros is empty. It is empty as a touristic area (except the Mont Vallier)
One of these days I should write a report on this area (West Ariege, 20 km from St Girons, 120 km from Toulouse). Wild trekking, not a lot of climbing but some thrilling scrambling.
And in summer, go to the barlonguere ! The shepherd is most of the times friendly and with good food !


visentin - Oct 8, 2008 12:08 pm - Hasn't voted

re: another little mistake

I have visited the Val d'Aran in many occasions and talking about a Disneyland is wrong. There are some completely desertic places in the Val d'Aran, near the Monlude for example.
The expression you use ("doryphore") is very unpleasant. Everyone on the earth, including you sherperd son are "doryphores" as long as we don't live like 100 years ago in the Pyrenees.
This hostile rhetoric towards the stranger who "understands nothing to the countryside" is tiring...

csuporj - Oct 8, 2008 6:35 pm - Hasn't voted

I don't like bears

It seems that you have forgotten the problems that bears cause. We have enough of them in Romania. They kill people from time to time. I don't have the courage to go or camp alone in most of our mountains because of them. In many places the sheperds must wake up in the middle of the night, because the bear walks between the dogs without any problems.


visentin - Oct 9, 2008 2:17 am - Hasn't voted

Re: I don't like bears

I've been in Rodnei, that's true, all people told me they have enough of them. But don't make Romania a generality, it's a "hot spot". There can be less bears, in such way that they don't cause trouble, but at a sustainable level. In Slovakia for example, as far as I know they are about 800 and people don't complain that much.

barlonguere - Oct 9, 2008 2:55 am - Hasn't voted


For the local people, doryphore is someone which buy a old barn, come 2 weeks for holidays and let the valley empty the rest of the year.
Right or wrong, it is their feeling.
And you can't forget the problems arising from these situation. The main problem is that it is almost impossible for a new breeder to find a place (barn or house).
For Val d'aran, you always can find empty places but most of them are crowded. For me, a mountain becomes Disneyland when bivvy (without tent) is not allowed !


visentin - Oct 9, 2008 3:25 am - Hasn't voted

re: doryphore

I understand the problem of barn-finding, but also understand people who come 2 weeks per year. Have you never pitched your tent at the seaside for few days in the summer ? Maybe you are a "doryphre" for local who live there too.
I've bivouacqued in many occasions in the Val d'Aran, perhaps this is forbidden in the Aygues Tortes parc but the interdiction is not very tight. I often hike in the Tatras National park where offtrails and bivouac are very strictly forbidden, and I don't feel like in a Disneyland either. For me, a Disneyland is when things become all-over like in the Pourtalet.
Read this french article, especially the end:

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