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23th December 2011: Christmas newsletter

Christmas card All the hibernating animals are well and truly tucked up in bed now. Our collared bears settled at very different times. Galina, the female, is in all probability pregnant again this view is strengthened by the fact that she went to her den area relatively early on the 27th October. She has obviously tucked herself into a crevice or cave as we have been receiving extremely few signals from her even though there is good GSM coverage. Her den is at about 1700m above sea level on the southern face slopes of the High Tatras although she is probably on a western facing spur. She is not too far from two tourist trails and a mountain cottage however the steep nature of the terrain and the dwarf pine make it virtually impossible for people to disturb her.

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30th October 2011: Getting ready to sleep

Walking with Bears, Slovakia Since July the bears have been fattening up. We ran a walking tour starting in Poland in August. This tour walks up to the border ridge and down into Slovakia. During the week clients travel through the dwarf pine and above the treeline. Due to the open nature of the vegetation this area is ideal for seeing bears and with the blueberries ripening from mid-August the chances of seeing them are high. We saw bears on four different occasions even though the weather was terrible for the ridge walk which we had high hopes for. This trip is, fitness permitting, a great way of getting into the bear zone and increasing the chances of getting close sightings. Apart from that there were regular sightings from afar, up on the avalanche slopes.

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26th October 2011: Buzzards and Boar

Buzzard, Slovakia It has been three months since the last newsletter - apologies. New family members have curtailed our excursions into the woods and mountains and with these sleepless nights and lack of things to chat about newsletters have fallen by the wayside.

Anyway, back on it. Firstly the other news - bear news will follow in the next few days. The final fledglings that were about in July have all grown up. Indeed most of the migrants have now left for sunnier climes, however, the Black Redstarts are surprisingly still here.

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24th July 2011: Is Galina a pig hunter?

European Souslik (Spermophilus citellus), Slovakia July is traditionally a quiet month for wildlife. However a visit to Spis castle on a sunny day produced some great sightings of the European Souslik, classified as vulnerable by the IUCN. These little ground squirrels are fun to watch as they eat flowers, wrestle with each other and bolt down the nearest hole at the first sign of danger. For more pictures, click here.

We have seen a remarkable number of Black Stork recently, maybe this is just luck or maybe the population is growing. In addition we saw a lovely Common Rosefinch the other day, this bird is one of the few migrants that spends its winters in the east, probably in India somewhere.

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27th June 2011: Project Bear featured on Wildlife Extra website wildlifeextra

Please find links about Project Bear and some of our unique tourism products

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24th June 2011: Freedom and the Mating season

Shamrock Maria's collar was programmed to drop off on 18th May which it duly did so she is now free again. The GPS position showed it to be in an area of fallen trees. It was obvious that Maria had rested up here for a number of days - maybe she was relishing her new found freedom. Around the flattened rest site was a large quantity of dung full of grass. On closer inspection there were two types of dung. Now bear dung is not something that can really be confused with much else, it is big, very big, and bluish/black at this time of year. However on one side of the rest site there were some small piles. At first we thought that these were fox droppings, but on closer inspection they proved to be the dung of a baby bear! This cub must be much bigger and stronger than the one that died as Maria was moving very quickly through the terrain when she left her little one - in fact we thought that due to the speed she was moving she could not possibly have still had cubs. It was good news that the drop-off technology worked and great news to see that she still had a cub. Although we will not be receiving data from her any more, both us here at Projekt Medved' (Project Bear) and the TANAP head ranger were quietly pleased that she can go off in peace now. She has done her bit for science and has provided us with some very good data.

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23rd May 2011: BBC Coverage of the collaring of Galina

Please find links below to some BBC coverage of the recent collaring of the problem bear Galina.

TV piece:

BBC News website:

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12th May 2011: Human influence and some sad news

White stork Firstly the bird news. The migrants have been flocking in; White Storks are now present in the fields and our regular nests on the chimney in Velka (Poprad) and next to the road near Nowy Targ, in Poland, are both occupied again. Black Storks have been seen flying overhead and Lesser-spotted Eagles are again gobbling hamsters in the fields. Things seem to be a bit lazier this year with the House Martins returning to the airport a week later than last year. Our first tired looking swallow was seen on the 15th April but the majority did not reappear here until a few days later. Lovely surprises were an immature White-tailed Eagle resting after a bit of fishing and a Pied Flycatcher, the latter just next to the airport.

The other animals have all started to be more active. The lowland herds of Roe Deer have split up and many have returned to the higher areas. There are many traces of Wild Boar and three were seen this morning as well as another three in the Slovak Paradise Park the other day. Very soon the Red Deer will return to the hills and the Wolves will follow. In the mountains we saw 16 Chamois in the major bear areas, this is the most we have ever seen there and is a sure sign that this endemic and endangered subspecies is making a comeback in the Western Tatras. In addition whilst searching for an ancient pine forest, again in the bear areas, we came across some Wild Boar dung at an altitude that we have not see it at before. All of this bodes well for our tours this season.

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3rd May 2011: The Collaring of Galina

On the 3rd May we collared our 4th bear. Galina, a female of about 120kg, was caught at a cage just outside the settlement of Smokovec in the High Tatras. The cage was placed near to the villages to try and catch a bear that is habituated, that is to say it is a bear that has lost its fear of humans usually due to it getting used to eating non-natural foodstuffs to supplement its diet. Although in the wild most bears are timid and will run away from people, some of these 'nuisance' bears have lost their fear of humans. The public perception of European Brown Bears in Slovakia is that they are very dangerous and as a result the presence of such bears in villages results in calls for them to be shot which is often the end result. The BBC were here to film the collaring and as part of their piece they interviewed various people including the Mayor of Vysoke Tatry (of which Smokovec is a part), he was firmly of the opinion that these bears should be shot without delay.

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14th April 2011: Viktor is on the move

The song of the Skylark has been filling the air in the past month. The airport is a haven for song birds with five types of finches, four of tit (if you include the Longtail), three of thrushes and two of sparrows all being here on a daily basis. Our friendly Nutcracker has also returned. The ubiquitous Black Redstarts have flown back from warmer climes, we are only waiting for the House Martins and Swallows. On the 27th March the airport was overrun by robins presumably making their way north, there must have been over fifty in an area the size of a football pitch. This morning a pair of Grey Partridge crossed the road.

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11th April 2011: Indian Summer in Levoca

There are a number of festivals in the region in the summer and late autumn. One of these is the Indian Summer in Levoca Music Festival between the 30th September and the 5th October.

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07th March 2011: Winter is Almost Over

Woodpecker So the winter is finally starting to leave us. Temperatures have been constantly rising and the smell of spring is in the air. Although we have had sporadic snowfalls and very cold nights, nature is waking up.

This is most evident in the birds which have started to sing and define their territories. Our resident Great Spotted Woodpecker at the airport (where our office is) has flown to a better territory leaving his anvil tree ravaged. He was here virtually every day throughout the winter picking up pine cones and battering them against it. In the Slovak Paradise Park at the weekend, Three-toed and Black woodpeckers were both active - the Black Woodpecker, Europe's largest, was particularly aggressive in his hammering! We also saw a pair of Common Buzzards displaying, flying up and then dropping in the air whilst calling with their characteristic 'mew'.

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27th February 2011:
Coal Tits are very noisy in the montane spruce forests at about 1600m.

20th February 2011:
New Bear watching weekends and also nature and cultural day trips have now been added to the website

17th February 2011:
New week long Bear watching holidays have been added onto the website - see here for more details.

16th February 2011:
The website has been redesigned making it more user friendly

14th December 2010:
A short video about bears and wildlife in the High Tatras

Newsletter   #14: More berries, a big bear and preparing to sleep

Boris Javorova As the colder months approach the bears have all been trying to get as many calories as possible. Mainly this has been through eating berries and more berries. As said previously the berries ripen further up the slopes as the season progresses. This makes the bears more visible as they emerge above the tree line. We found a large bowl (valley) which was full of berry bushes and it became obvious that this was Boris’ patch. As the blueberry bushes got hit by the first frosts cranberries became the major food source. The bears find these harder to digest than the blueberries and it was not unusual to find dung full of whole berries.

Unfortunately we were hit by bad weather for two of our groups. Rain and low cloud make the slopes harder to scan and being wet and cold makes it all the more uncomfortable. The wet weather also makes the mountains more dangerous so any attempts to get closer were not possible. We did however manage to see bears on all of our trips from varying distances. Our final week long trip delivered 8 individual sightings including four bears being visible at one time. Alas a visit to the Boris bowl did not deliver the close up that we were looking for.

Maria oat dung Since the last email we have had some remarkable behaviour from Maria. Between her time on the high slopes she descended to the valleys. This was to eat invertebrates such as slugs and other grubs. The massive sugar hits of eating berries solidly for three days obviously need augmenting with proteins. Hunting post On one such occasion she made a bee line for an area that she had not previously visited. We went there and found a hunting post which had been baited with apples. It is hard to believe that she was compelled to walk for 9 km by the smell of apples. However there was a sheep farm nearby. Maybe they had been slaughtering sheep at that time and the smell of fresh blood had attracted her. We spoke to a shepherd and he said that two sheep had been taken in May and that currently there were a few bears in the area (he said 7 but this figure has to be taken with a pinch of salt). Maria footprint If Maria had been attracted to the area from so far away maybe other bears had descended from the mountains as well. She returned to this place twice and then went back to the slopes for more berries. Then at the end of September she again headed for the same region but this time she went to the village of Liptovska Kokava. She spent a number of days and nights in this area next to a big farm which had been harvested oats and barley. We found many footprints and lots of dung which was full of undigested oats. The remarkable thing was that she slept and ate so close to human habitation and she also appeared to be walking through the fields in broad daylight.

tranquilized bear In mid October we received a call that a bear was visiting a cage in the western Tatras. We armed a collar and headed out to Zuberec. The following morning a big male was in the cage. The collars have a circumference of 70 cm - when we saw this bear we had a Jaws moment, instead of 'we are going to need a bigger boat' we started to make some modifications to the size of the collar. The bear's neck was 92 cm. After putting the fella to sleep we could see just how big this male was. We estimated his weight to be 250-280 kgs - a quarter of a tonne of bear is an impressive sight. Brown bear So Viktor, as he is now known, woke up from his slumber and ambled off into the woods. Immediately we checked the signals and he appears to be getting along just fine.

The collaring of this big male is good as we now have a young sexually active female and a dominant male bear. It will be very interesting to compare their behaviour and range sizes as time progresses. Also we caught him just in time as both Maria and Viktor are now settling down to den. Maria visited her current den site in early September and then returned in mid October showing a memory and spatial awareness that we have become accustomed to with these intelligent animals.

Whilst watching Boris we finally had a good sighting of a Golden eagle soaring high above the ridges, this was a young bird with the characteristic white base to its tail. On the same trip a Goshawk was being mobbed by tits, a kestrel and sparrowhawk soared in the valleys and our first rough-legged buzzard came in from the north. On a separate occasion a peregrine was seen. It is great to have such a healthy and apparently breeding raptor population here as it suggests that the ecosystem is in rude health. One night we also heard the very nocturnal Tengmalm's (Boreal) Owl - this owl has an 'astonished' wide eyed look - it would be great to see this in the flesh.

Whiskered bat Particoloured bat As we were packing up the cottage after one of the groups we closed the shutters and found three bats roosting under them, We believe these to be the particoloured bat and the whiskered bat but if would be good to get verification - please see the photos, if anyone can enlighten us then please do...

Newsletter   #13: Berry-tastic

This is supposed to be the bears' quiet period when it is too hot for them to do anything but loll around in the heat waiting for the first chill of autumn to set in. However the evidence has not shown this to be the case. Maria has travelled further than last month however her range size has not increased. The increased abundance of foodstuffs is giving her so much choice that it seems that she cannot decide what to eat.

Stone After a short period grazing grasses and herbs on the high slopes she descended. Walking through the lower areas at the moment we constantly bump into locals collecting mushrooms and berries and it seems that Maria is doing the same. The blueberries are ripe at lower altitudes and she has been spending a particularly long time on one slope eating these – we expect her to move up the slopes as the berries ripen higher up. In addition there are the delicious wild raspberries which line the river banks and verges. In one of these raspberry rich areas we found that she had also been overturning stones (by stones read big rocks of about 10kgs) looking for grubs and insects. In addition in all of the areas we visited there is evidence of destroyed rotten tree stumps – it seems that bears contribute to the breaking down of organic matter in the forests more than we imagined.

Carcass Maria’s keen sense of smell (apparently 7 times that of a dog – how do they work these things out?) also discovered an old carcass. This was a male roe deer - judging by the remains it had probably been killed over the winter. All that was left were a few bones, lots of hair and the antlers. She visited this site twice although to us there seemed to be little of nutritional value left. Near to this carcass we found a bear scratching post with new marks and plenty of hair stuck in the resin. We will be placing a camera trap here shortly to see how many bears pass though this area and the frequency of the visits.

Broken dam We visited the beavers and saw that in spite of the heavy rain their dam was still intact and looking good however we also visited another beaver dam and saw that it had been completely washed away – the cross section of it can be seen in the photo – which was disappointing but after the rains that we have had it is understandable. They will rebuild but will choose their next location more carefully.

Apart from that black terns, whinchats, plenty of lesser-spotted eagles and other birds have been seen recently. We recently had a raptor-tastic couple of days which was satisfying – peregrine falcon, marsh harrier, lesser-spotted eagle, goshawk, sparrowhawk, kestrel, buzzard and a lovely hobby, alas the golden eagle eluded us. We also visited a bat cave that has eight species roosting in it – we will be going there at dusk at some point to see the exodus – maybe this treat can be reserved for our next group on the 29AUG although the walking might be a little tough due to the steep terrain.

Oh, we also have a kettle in the office now which makes remarkably good tea – finally getting civilised.

Newsletter   #12: Summertime

The temperatures have got back to normal with 25 degrees in Poprad and sunshine a daily occurrence. There are occasionally thunderstorms which roll off the mountains in quite spectacular fashion.

Peacock To celebrate the coming of the nice weather we have put some gratuitous butterfly shots in with this post.

June saw a marked change in Maria’s behaviour again. Instead of continuing her grazing at the tops of the mountains she descended to the valleys and spent a large amount of time there. She seemed to stop in places for far less than she was. Maybe this is because before she had to eke out as much food as possible with using much energy…She has however increased her distance travelled in June but has had a reduced range which indicates the constant short journeys she is making.

She spent a total of seven days on the grassy slopes in June however she did this on three separate occasions. She also achieved her highest altitude at just under 2000m.

Apollo The evidence indicates that there is far more food about. Therefore it is not necessary for her to stuff herself as much as possible when she finds food. Rather it would appear that she leads a much more relaxed lifestyle, eating a bit, wandering a bit, eating a bit.

We visited a lowland meadow the other day and found the tracks of Maria periodically interspersed with anthills that had been destroyed. A bit of protein, a few herbs and then move on…

Silver-washed Fritillary We have noticed that at some points she has been purposefully heading in one direction and then all of a sudden she turns around and for the next hour covers a large distance. We think that this might be due to being scared by something, either human or bear.

We have recently footage of two female bears having a territorial fight in these mountains. Maria being a small, young female would doubtless lose in any such contest – maybe this is why she is not grazing the choicest slopes in the valleys during the day. It might also explain some of these sudden directional changes.

Most birds have young that are in nest or have fledged. Young sparrows, fieldfares, swifts, black redstarts, chaffinches and serin abound in the centre of Poprad. Pavement café culture is definitely upon us and everyone looks a lot happier!

Newsletter   #11: The start of the feeding period - June 2010

It was the wettest May for 70 years here in Slovakia and the torrid weather made it difficult to get out into the field. However we did manage to check a few sites that Maria has been frequenting.

Pasque Flower Maria has changed her behaviour considerably. Now that the grasses have started to grow and the insects are awake she has stopped going to the feeding stations that were such an integral part of her travels each day. Instead she has been spending increasing amounts of time higher up in the mountains. After a prolonged period of time at about 1650m she descended rapidly and we went to investigate. We discovered that the mountain slopes where she had been were covered in a layer of snow about 35cm deep, thus stopping her from feeding. The temperature readings from her collar also decreased rapidly from an average of 13 to 5 degrees Celsius.

After she descended she spent a few days in the same place at about 1300m - just above the cottage where our clients stay on trips. We went to have a look and found lots of evidence of her breaking up rotting logs and stumps, undoubtedly looking for insects and grubs. Also we found a large amount of dung that was full of grass, indicating that she had been grazing significantly on the higher slopes before coming down.

Rather than returning to the upper slopes after the weather cleared up Maria went walkabout and increased her range, especially in the direction of the lowlands. It would appear that again the search for insects and grubs was top of her agenda.

Why she hasn’t returned to the high slopes now that the weather is better is a mystery. Maybe she has had too much grass for the time being or maybe she has a fear of lightning and stormy weather and the associated treacherous conditions.

Chamois Last week we received our first group of the season. Although conditions were not great we did manage to see a mother with two semi-adult cubs (they will probably leave her this year) and a young adolescent male. One of the team also saw a large adult male on the same day. Five bears in two days was a great return in conditions that gave us low visibility and little chance to walk extensively in bear rich areas. We also saw plenty of red deer – some of the males have already got impressive sets of velvet covered antlers.

Carpathian Blue Slug As the weather improved we managed to get a couple of good walks under our belts. We had a decent sighting of a three-toed woodpecker and a prolonged fight between a pair of red-backed shrikes and a number of great tits. The weather was glorious on the final day in the mountains so we walked up to a pass in the Belianske Tatras. We had fantastic views and great sightings of Chamois leaping across the path. We also saw the world famous and endemic Carpathian blue slug (Bielzia coerulans) on a number of occasions.

The other day the strange behaviour of the lesser-spotted eagle was observed – one less hamster presumably.

With all of the rain the beavers will probably have activated their sluice gates however a trip to them had to be aborted due to the conditions.

Newsletter   #10: First results - May 2010

Maria, as she has been named, has been doing just fine. There were initial issues with the signals but finally the data started coming through and we began to be able to see exactly what she does on a day to day basis.

The most striking thing is how habitual she is. She tends to rest during the daylight hours. On over ninety percent of the occasions when she has been resting she went back to the same area of forest. In addition there are various waypoints that she seems to pass virtually every night, these need to be investigated more thoroughly.

Yesterday we went up to one such waypoint to look for evidence and found a large number of very clear prints and some dung. However on a closer inspection we noticed that the prints seemed to be of two sizes. We measured them and also stumbled on another pile of extremely fresh dung which was smaller than the rest. With both of these bits of evidence we came to the conclusion that the cub in the clearing had indeed been Maria’s and that they were now reunited.

There is still little food about so the bears are in their period of hypophagia, a physiological state where their bodies are adapted to fasting. This will change as the new grasses come through.

Currently Maria’s range is about 6.5 km by 6.5km but we expect this to change significantly as she moves to the prime grass areas.

The temperatures have been over 20 degrees for the past few days and the swallows, martins and swifts are all back. In the woods the black woodpecker has been showing well and the chiffchaffs and cuckoos can be heard everywhere. We saw our first lesser-spotted eagle of the year yesterday as well – a raptor that is particularly partial to hunting on the ground – no doubt after the large hamster population of this area.

With all this excitement the beavers have been a little bit neglected but I am sure that they are doing a sterling job, we will go and see them this month.

Newsletter   #9: Finally success - April 2010

Easter bear collaring In the last news we said that Boris had been sniffing around the cage. After he went into it a couple of times the night watches started. Finally on the 23rd March he went in again and the lads were there to pull the trigger…but disaster. The mechanism failed and Boris ran off into the woods. We were all very disappointed and feared that with him having been spooked that was it for that cage in that area. We made plans to move it. We felt that with Boris being the dominant male in the area, in addition to him not going back to the cage, other bears would be dissuaded by the strong scent of him.

Just in case of a minor miracle a hastily constructed automatic release mechanism was placed in the cage and we continued to bait it whilst we discussed where we would move it to.

At 7am on Good Friday (02nd April) we received a telephone call to say that a bear was in the cage! We shot off to the site and sure enough inside the cage was a smaller, 140kg bear. The rangers had gone to the cage at 6am to check it and at first they saw a juvenile bear in the clearing. It ran off on seeing them and then they noticed that there was another one in the cage. Easter bear collaring

The camera trap pictures showed that she had entered it at 8.30pm the previous night.

We darted it and found her to be a female bear. The juvenile was probably her cub however it was fully weaned and more than capable of looking after itself. We are sure that they will rejoin each other shortly.

Easter bear collaring We carried out all of the measurements of the bear and took blood, hair and faecal samples for DNA and parasite analysis. We also attached one of our GPS collars.

On waking up she was a little drowsy but finally she bounded off into the woods.

Now we just have to wait to see what signals we get back from her. Our aim was to collar three types of bear, a dominant male, an adult female and a juvenile male. One down, two to go…

On a different note a little walk into the hills last week also produced a good sprinkling of birds - two female and one male three-toed woodpeckers and a male capercaillie being the highlights. The lekking has not, of yet, started.

Last week we also caught sight of our first beavers, as darkness fell they appeared and before long all we could hear was the rasping of their teeth on wood. The dam has been partially rebuilt and the water level has already risen by about 6 inches (spread over an area of about two football pitches).

Newsletter   #8: March 2010

The temperatures here have risen considerably. The daytime temperature for the past few days have been over ten degrees, which is positively steamy. With the sun shining, nearly all of the snow in the lowland areas has gone and even the most frozen of the lakes are starting to thaw out. There is even a hint of green across some of the fields.

Boris at cage     Boris at cage

Further to last month, Boris has not been that active. After the initial surprise at him being around the cage it appeared that he went back to bed. Maybe his digestive system was not up to eating so many apples so soon. The temperatures also dropped considerably so he probably felt that a few more days of sleep were in order.

However in early March he showed his face again and was camera trapped near the cage. He was there for three consecutive days from the 9th to the 12th and finally on the morning of the 12th between 5 and 6 am we saw what we were waiting for…he overcame his fears and entered the cage fully on two occasions. With this new evidence and the rising temperatures we are now very hopeful that in the next few weeks we will have him where we want him.

Since the rise in temperatures everything has come to life. Most noticeable is the bird life, which seems to have exploded. From a few collared doves cooing in the towns last week to a full on dawn songfest. In the farmland surrounding Poprad we have seen plenty of Yellowhammers, Siskins, Greenfinches, Tree Sparrows and today a Great Grey Shrike. The woodpeckers, especially the Black Woodpecker, are also start to drum for their mates. It is only a matter of time before the Capercaillie and Black Grouse starting thinking about lekking.

BeaverThe earlier sunrises and warm temperatures also tempted us to go and have a look to see if there was any beaver activity at the local lodge. This morning we left at 0630 and we were astounded to see that the second largest rodent in the world had indeed been extremely busy. The picture on the left was taken today - we were amazed at the size of the trees that these fellas take on. We didn’t see any actual beavers but that is understandable seeing as they seem to have been hard at work all night.

Newsletter   #7: The New Season - February 2010

BorisThe season is now open! We have heard reports that there is bear activity already. It is early in the year but we believe that the bears are stirring due to the lack of snow cover on the ground. Although the temperatures have been very cold there has been little precipitation. The snow acts like a blanket to keep the bears warm when they are asleep so a few days of warmish temperatures have melted much of their duvet…hence the movement.

We have two cages in situ; one is a manual release and one an automatic release. Even though the snow cover is less than normal the upper reaches of the valleys are still inaccessible so all of our focus is on the lower, manual release cage.

The unique situation whereby these large carnivores by design are primarily vegetarians means that they need to find easily digestible foodstuffs. Initially one particular bear that has been named Boris was sniffing around the winter deer feed, which is of little or no nutritional value to him. However on seeing the prints around the feed the TANAP rangers started putting out more nutritious dry maize – something that he is far more able to digest. On first estimates we believe Boris to be about 250kgs, it would be great to collar him as he is undoubtedly the dominant male of the area and his movements will give us a much better idea of his range (and maybe those of other males in the region), something which is unknown at present in the High Tatras.

The bear has been visiting the cage area regularly and the bait has been placed near to it. Now that he is familiar with the area the bait has been removed from around the cage and will only be placed inside. The cage at this stage is not armed so this is purely to habituate him to it. In the next few days we will stop using maize and start using last seasons apples, which are far more appealing to him.

We have placed an infrared camera trap in the cage and this will tell us how far he is going into it. At the first sign of him entering the cage completely the night watches will start from a hide about 20 metres away and the cage will be armed.

Boris is a wily male and he will be a challenge to catch therefore human visits to the area will be kept to an absolute minimum with a limited number of people putting the bait out and staying in the hide.

Newsletter   #6: The Rest of the Year

Bear mother and cubsAfter the disappointment of Miso slipping his collar in April and the subsequent discovery of it in June there was one more opportunity to catch bears in 2009. This was the final hyperphagia, the period where bears eat as much as possible to sustain them through their winter sleep. The cages were frequented by a few bears including a hugely inquisitive mother and two cubs and at different times a large male. Although the mother and two cubs entered the cage freely we could do nothing as to catch one of the three would prove intensely stressful for the others and potentially very dangerous for us. So we watched helpless while they scoffed all of the apples.

The male was an altogether different proposition, he sat at the entrance pawing those apples he could reach, then he went round the back of the cage and pawed out what he could get from there - too clever for us.

So 2009 was a fruitless year for us however many lessons were learnt and we are optimistic for the spring when the bears will be really hungry after their sleep.

Newsletter   #5: Spring Time

Miso CollarMiso stayed at the den site until 25th April 2009 when he left in search of fresh grass to feed on.

Due to the collar being on the edge of its mobile network the signals we were receiving were infrequent. However they did seem to indicate that the bear was not moving much, if at all. We feared the worst that Miso had not survived, however we were hopeful that he may just have been hanging around the den, fearful of a big male nearby. The truth was, although unfortuante for the project, much less sinister.

Our hungry bear, having lost so much weight through the winter and being a small bear initially, had slipped the collar over his head and left it resting against a bush next to the den. It was not until June that we felt we could disturb the den site, and when we did, we found the collar propped up against a bush.

Newsletter   #4: Bear Monitoring

Miso’s collar has been sending us information since 6th October. After his release, he moved from Koprova to Ticha valley and stayed there for 2 days. At midnight on 8th October he crossed a tourist trail and moved west of the Ticha valley.

He traversed a ridge here, intensively feeding and in the morning of 14th he started to prepare his main den site. This one is at an altitude of 1300 m and it took him 8 days of intensive work to finish it.

Tranquilized Brown Bear Miso     Brown Bear Miso

After this one he prepared another 2 dens at altitudes of 1500m and 1700m, and then went looking for last bits of food in the Ticha valley, but appeared ready to begin his winter sleep. When he finished his final search for food, something clearly proved wrong with these denning sites. He travelled a further 2 km up the valley and found a new separate site, and immediately settled in. On 18th November the signals stopped moving and Miso entered his winter home.

Bear Trail     Bear trail


Newsletter   #3: Collaring

We are delighted to announce the successful collaring of our first bear.

After more than one month of daily observations from our hideout and the monitoring of five bears who became regular visitors to the bait awaiting them in our cage, along came Miso.

Miso the Brown Bear   Miso the Brown Bear - outside of the cage

Miso is a five year old brown bear, weighing in at 120kg, some 70 cm high and 130 cm from nose to tail.  Whilst not the largest bear which has visited us at the site, he became its most regular visitor and is an interesting subject for our first collar.  We have had ample opportunity to monitor and get to know the character of Miso, and thought he would be a good test for the first collar because his tender age ensures he will have no territory yet. As such it will be interesting to see how far he must roam to safely gather food, and at what point in his life he begins to establish himself with any kind of dominance.

Miso the Brown Bear - Samples taking   Miso the Brown Bear - Teeth

Miso was caught on 6th October 2008 at 06.30 in the morning by a dedicated team of rangers and veterinary surgeon.  He was carefully sedated at 10.30am and samples were taken prior to the collar being attached.  Two hours later, at around 12.30, Miso awoke and disappeared into the forest.  A very excited team have since monitored his movements and locations using the highly effective GPS system which works in tune with the GSM collar worn by Miso. 

Miso the Brown Bear - Waking up   Miso the Brown Bear - Walking into the woods

We have started to collect regular information which we can now start to include in our updates on this site.


Newsletter   #2: Monitoring bears at the cage

The bear research project is now entering a new phase, and a cage has been placed in the High Tatras park, on the Western side to capture our first bear for collaring. Our plan is to monitor the movements of animals around the cage with the door open until we see one large enough to collar, which is regularly feeding from the bait left inside. Our camera traps have been very successful in monitoring these movements without necessitating someone watching through the night from the nearby hideout.

Miso the Brown Bear  Lynx Miso the Brown Bear  Miso the Brown Bear

A combination of apples and corn is being used to attract bears in a time when they are not easily distracted from the plentiful berries in the forest. However, the cage has been visited regularly by one young bear @80kg, has also been visited by a mother and cub, and just this week has attracted the attention of a larger bear over 150kg, and as such a good target for the collaring process. We are hoping to see this bear regularly over the coming days, and soon be able to capture it. This will only take place in daylight hours, once the bear has become very comfortable with the place. It will necessitate an overnight vigil by rangers and a vet so that the collaring can be done quickly and effectively early in the morning.

Miso the Brown Bear  Miso the Brown Bear Miso the Brown Bear  The Brown Bear - Big Male 

Let’s hope the next newsletter is to announce the first successful collaring.


Newsletter   #1: Beginnings

Bear portrait
Two bear collars have just been delivered. Obviously we are restricted to trying to collar two bears but it is essential to try and catch different types of bear. There are three target types that we will try and catch. Firstly a dominant fully grown male bear. We have one in mind which seems to have a very defined territory. This will be ideal as it will give us an idea of the range of these animals. Secondly we would like to catch a sub-adult male bear to see how far it goes to settled into his own territory. It will also be ideal to see what, if any, interaction there is between the dominant male and the sub-adult male. Thirdly we would like to collar a female bear with no cubs. This will give us an idea of the range of the females. Specifically it will be interesting to find out if its range overlaps with two dominant males or if its range is wholly contained within a dominant male’s range.

GPS collar

As we get more collars we will also try and collar a ‘problem’ bear. It is thought that one of the reasons for the increasing incidence of problem bears behaviour could have been the result of a whirlwind in 2004 where many animals experienced huge changes to their natural environment, forcing them to find new sources of food and new areas in which to live. By collaring this bear, we hope to discover the reasons for the behaviour centred around scavenging rubbish bins. We hope that this research will provide us with some ideas for developing systems to reduce bear conflict with humans.





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