Marsican Brown Bear Facts

The Marsican Brown Bear populates Italy’s Abruzzo National Park (within the Apennine Mountains) and is considered to be one of the rarest creatures on the planet. They are a large subspecies of the brown bear. Males, before hibernation, can weigh up to 200 kg. They are usually dark brown in color but their coats can vary in shades including a golden brown. They have small rounded ears and a short tail.

They are lone animals and not as territorial as other bears. They will wander over a large stretch of land without defending its borders. They are classified as carnivores but also eat a large range of bulbs, vegetables, fruits and mushrooms. This non-meat portion of their diet can represent as much as 60% of their total food intake. They will hunt, although they frequently dine on carrion.

Their slow reproductive rate plays against them in their quest for survival. They roam over vast areas as lone animals and when mating does occur the female produces usually one or two cubs. She can have up to four but it is extremely rare. The Mother gives birth in December or January (during dormancy) and will raise her off spring for the next two to three years. During this time of motherhood she will refuse to mate.

There are estimates that this animal’s numbers have shrunk down to between thirty to forty bears. Although Italy has given an almost celebrity status to various individuals and are struggling to save the species it may be too late.

The European Union is funding efforts to save Italy’s largest native mammal.  Volunteers are stringing up electrical fences to keep the bears from raiding honey and orchards near human homes and farms. Fruit trees are being planted within their domain so that a natural food source is readily available to them.

The Plan of Action for the Protection of the Marsican Brown Bear or PATOM is also currently underway. This is a comprehensive program dedicated to the conservation of this species. The goal is to monitor, communicate, establish and enact procedures which will allow for the bears to continue unheeded in the wild. This includes monitoring areas adjacent to the park and attempting to keep toxic substances out of the bears’ area. There have been three cases of poisoning over the last few years. Although the target may not have been the bears themselves it was a cruel blow to their struggle for survival.

There is also an ongoing effort to allow further funding from the European Union and coordinate with those of other protection efforts of bears, such as the one in effect for protection of bears in the Alps.

The public is also being encouraged to appreciate the creatures and learn of their intricate part in nature’s play as support from the people is vital to the ultimate goal of saving these large and beautiful animals. Growing awareness and conservation efforts have had some positive effects. In recent years cubs have been spotted running through the forests and their numbers appear to be on the increase.