The bear necessities! Lonely bear crosses border in search of food and love
A brown bear has been captured on film in the Białowieża Forest in eastern Poland rummaging through a box of food - the first confirmed bear sighting in the forest since 2010.
The brown bear, which is believed to have ranged over the border from Belarus in search of a mate, was spotted on Monday morning after a researcher from the Mammal Research Institute in Białowieża was making a routine check of camera-traps placed around the forest.
Tom Diserens from the institute told TFN: “It’s normal behaviour for males to go on long ranging excursions to look for female to mate with. They can cover hundreds of miles to explore new territories to search for females. The only problem for him is that there aren’t any females here.”
The 1 minute 42 second black and white video shows the bear investigating a tray of food on the ground.
Diserens said: “The bear looked like it was new in the area, he wasn’t sure where to go, he found something interesting, perhaps he scented a human smell and he was checking it out.”
He added: “The bear wandered into the site of an experiment that was intended to study the interaction between wolves and medium sized carnivores. The camera-trap was set up to observe badgers, foxes and raccoon dogs and the effects that wolves have on them.”
The sighting is all the more surprising because western Belarus does not have a significant bear population, suggesting that this bear may have travelled from as far as central or eastern Belarus.
Bears in Białowieża Forest, one of the last and largest remaining parts of the immense primeval forest that once stretched across the European Plain, have had a chequered history. After being hunted to extinction in the forest when it was under the Russian partition, the Polish authorities launched a programme in 1937 to repopulate the area with bears. This was partially successful, but the outbreak of the second world war stopped the programme.
During the war the Germans implemented a bizarre plan to boost the bear population by dumping circus bears and other tame bears in the forest. These mixed with the reintroduced bears, which caused problems because the bears started going into gardens and stealing food. They local human population got annoyed, so a lot of them were killed.
The remnants of this population struggled on in the forest after the war and it is believed that the last individuals died out in the 1960s. Since then, individual bears have occasionally appeared from the Belarusian side, such as the sighting in 2010, but they have not set up a colony in the forest.
Whether the latest bear sighting means the start of an influx remains doubtful.
Diserens told TFN: “He might stick around and wait for a female migrant bear. The problem is that females don’t travel far to look for a mate. They tend to stay close to where they were born. It’s the males that travel further.
“This is something that often slows down colonisation. Males go and explore and then they have to wait for a super confident female to arrive or for the population to gradually inch towards the new area.”