Spanish police guide bear back from city centre to mountains

Spanish police guide bear back from city centre to mountains

Spanish police came to the aid of a brown bear whose apparent quest for acorns led him to pad the pre-dawn streets of a busy city in the north-western region of Castilla y León.

The animal was spotted in the centre of Ponferrada in the early hours of Tuesday by a taxi-driver, who filmed its progress around the city and who can be heard in the video exclaiming, not unreasonably: “It’s a bear!”

Local police confirmed the incident in a tweet later on Tuesday and urged people to be careful. “Early today, a taxi-driver alerted us to the presence of a bear in the centre of the city, which he filmed,” they said. “Our patrols found him near the river and guided him towards the [nearby] Pajariel mountain. Although these animals get jumpy around people, we advise maximum care be taken.”

The Fundación Oso Pardo (Brown Bear Foundation) said the ursine metropolitan incursion was no cause for alarm.

“The video filmed by a taxi-driver that the Ponferrada municipal police have posted on Twitter is proving very popular,” the foundation said in a statement. “Everything suggests this was a bear headed for a nearby mountain to eat acorns (which is what all bears are doing as winter approaches), who got disoriented.”

But the wildlife NGO added that a team from the regional government was investigating whether there could have been another reason for the bear’s visit.

According to the foundation, there are about 330 brown bears spread across the northern Spanish regions of Galicia, Asturias, Cantabria and Castilla y León, and an estimated 70 in the Pyrenees between Spain and France.

Brown bears have been a protected species in Spain since 1973. In an effort to consolidate the bear population in the Pyrenees, brown bears from Slovenia have been introduced over the past two decades.

The bears are not the only species to have appeared in Spanish cities over recent years. Four years ago, some of the wild boar that roam the hills above Barcelona were spotted near the Catalan capital’s Sagrada Familia basilica and by the Mercè market.

Boars have also been seen in Rome and Berlin, where one porcine miscreant famously stole the laptop of a nudist bather.

This article by Sam Jones was first published by The Guardian on 11 October 2022. Lead Image: Brown bears were near extinct in the Pyrenees until the scheme introduced new animals to the region from Slovenia in 1996. Photograph: Stefan Korshak/EPA.

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