The rare Marsican Bears of Abruzzo in Italy
Meet the Marsican
Marsican Brown Bears(Ursus arctos marsicanus)
This smaller of the Brown near species is also one of the rarest of bears on the planet.
It is probable that there are only 40 individuals left living .
However, it appears that is even too many for farmers and beekeepers in the Abruzzo region where they reside.
Because of human populations creeping out into their habitats the bears unfortunately do cause damage to livestock, beehives and crops.
They are omnivores, but have never been recorded as attacking man, so pose no threat in that respect.
This however, could have been prevented and although late in the day ongoing efforts are being made to keep the bears away from human habitation. This is being done with something very simple.......low-voltage electric fences. Its enough to scare the bears off but not harm them.
They are in fact a very timid animal and it must only be hunger that drives them into populated areas.
So the question arises why wasn't this done by farmers and beekeepers themselves long ago, and why is it conservationists and other groups who are trying desperately to protect these last few bears that are having to raise funds and do the work that these landowners could have done and should still be doing themselves themselves.
The other name for this bear is the Apennine Brown bear, it is a subspecies of The Brown Bear.
It's range is restricted to Abruzzo National Park and perhaps Montagne del Morrone.
The male can weigh up to 200kg and when standing upright reaches heights of between1.90-2.00 metres, the female being about 25% smaller in all respects.They are one of the largest omnivores in Italy and therefore have no natural predators, apart from possibly a good size wolf-pack.
Very shy, they generally only come out at night, and are a solitary animal with each bears territory extending from 10km to 200km. This is dependant on food sources of course.
More than 90% of what they eat is plant related-roots,tubers,fruits, berries and other plant materials. However because this is nutrionally low they have to consume a great deal and do supplement this sometimes by catching and eating small mammals, inverterbrates,verterbrates and if they come across it the carcass of another dead animal. They preer to kill anything large.
In fact the Marsican Bear is not a merciless killeras has been depicted. Sadly though this rumour over the course of time has turned into a belief, and this belief has justified the persecution of this very shy and unassuming animal. In fact to this day it is still going on even they they are protected, and they are being poisoned and trapped possibly by locals or poachers.
In October 2011 3 bears were found to have been poisoned by fungicide(weedkiller), quite a favourite here in Italy for poisoning animals. Its both evil and causes a slow and extremely painful death, particularly in bigger animals.
The death of another bear more recently also looks highly suspicious and is under investigation.
Other threats to the Marsican Bears survival include shifts from agriculture to development(including a controversial proposal to build a ski resort in the Abruzzo National Park.
Marsican Bear Habitat
Problems of recovery in numbers.
Because the Marsican has no natural predators it is slow reproductively, maybe giving birth once every four years. The female has a six month pregnancy and usually produces twins. This is the only time she is aggressive, when she is totally responsible for her offspring's safety, and they do not leave her until they are 2-3 yrs old. hence the long gap between producing new young. However because the females are sexually mature by the time they leave mothers care if the numbers could be stabilised now, then maybe they could increase with help from maybe breeding some in captivity.The lifespan of these rare bears in the wild is an encouraging factor, if there are any positive signs at this point for their recovery, and that is that it well exceeds 20yrs.
Although conservationists are doing their level best to get emergency measures put in place and adhered to, it appears that the Italian government has dragged its heels.
Also there needs to be re-education of the people who reside in the rural and more mountainous parts of Abruzzo to try to stop old customs and these belief systems. That is going to be an extremely difficult task!!!