Spain’s Wilderness: Encountering Cantabrian Brown Bear
Posted by Shirley Metz
Apex expedition leaders, Peter Harrison and Shirley Metz, recently led a group of Apex travelers on a 15-day wildlife expedition to the most remote and untouched corners of Spain. Here, Shirley reports on the group’s encounter with the Cantabrian Brown Bear. Read on!
Discovering Spain’s Wilderness
Before Peter and I left for Madrid to begin our “Spain’s Wilderness” expedition for Apex, many of our friends were quite surprised. I suppose they didn’t think that Spain was ‘wild’ enough for us. However, when we shared with them that we would be visiting the remotest regions of the northwestern part of the country’s national parks where Cantabrian Brown Bear and Iberian Wolf still run wild, they were incredulous.
We would also be visiting other areas further south in Spain where we hoped to see massive-horned Ibex and the rarest cat in the world—the Iberian Lynx. There would also be some impressive birding along the way including Great Bustard and the endangered Spanish Imperial Eagle. Both resident and migratory species were on the list as well. This was early fall in Europe when many avian species are making their way south to warmer climes.
Our adventure started in Madrid with a sumptuous Welcome Dinner. While the various courses and local wines made the rounds at the table, the members of our group introduced themselves to each other. All but one had traveled with Peter and me in the past, so it was like greeting old friends.
Encountering the Cantabrian Brown Bear
A particular highlight of the trip was heading north from Madrid to Somiedo National Park. Located in the central area of the strikingly beautiful Cantabrian Mountains, Somiedo is a 40,000-hectares park and home to the largest population of Eurasian Brown Bear in Western Europe. Normally they are shy and reclusive and almost never seen. However, in the fall, the bears emerge to gorge themselves on wild berries on the high, mountainous slopes of the Cantabrian range. Smaller than the nominate form, the Cantabrian Brown Bear is much darker and when young, often sports a pale cape to give it a “panda-like” appearance. In our three full days in the park, our Apex travelers had many encounters with this rare and little-studied mammal, including one encounter with three individuals that lasted almost two hours!
To learn more about discovering Spain’s wildlife with Apex, visit our Spain’s Wilderness expedition page.