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Behaviour of brown bears killing wild ungulates in the Cantabrian Mountains, Southwestern Europe

Abstract

Although brown bears (Ursus arctos) are known to be major predators of ungulates in North America and Northern Europe, there is little documentation regarding bear predation on wild ungulates in Southern Europe. We describe search, detection, killing and prey consumption behaviour by brown bears during seven attacks on <1-month roe deer, red deer and chamois fawns in spring in the Cantabrian Mountains, north-western Spain. As soon as the bears detected a fawn by their smell or their mother's presence, they switched from routine foraging on plants and insects to an intensive search for the fawns, mainly using smell to comb a 0.5–1 ha area for 15–45 min. They killed the fawns either while the latter were resting or after a brief chase. The bears usually took their prey to dense vegetation, consuming it immediately. In four cases, 5-month-old cubs accompanying the female did not participate in the hunt. We also document the apparently non-predatory killing of a 40-kg wild boar by a female bear with cubs surprised by a sudden encounter. They did not eat the boar after the attack.

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Acknowledgements

We thank the rangers of the Fundación Oso Pardo (Brown Bear Foundation) for their enthusiastic efforts. The environmental agencies of Galicia, Asturias, Castilla y León and Cantabria, the Spanish Ministry of the Environment, the European Union Life Projects and the Fundación Biodiversidad provided funds for the long-term bear monitoring. T. Corominas (Biodiversity and Landscape Directorate of Asturias) provided unpublished figures on roe deer densities, Dr. Y. Cortés and two anonymous referees reviewed the manuscript and L. Ashcroft improved the English.

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Correspondence to Juan Carlos Blanco.

Additional information

Communicated by C. Gortázar

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Blanco, J.C., Ballesteros, F., García-Serrano, A. et al. Behaviour of brown bears killing wild ungulates in the Cantabrian Mountains, Southwestern Europe. Eur J Wildl Res 57, 669–673 (2011) doi:10.1007/s10344-010-0464-z

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Keywords

  • Ursus arctos
  • Brown bear
  • Predation
  • Wild ungulates
  • Cantabrian Mountains
  • Spain