Is the brown bear back in the Krkonoše after two centuries?

The brown bear, photo: Gellinger / Pixabay CC0

Has the brown bear really returned to the Krkonoše? Following a recent sighting in the mountain range’s national park, scientists are now searching for evidence that would confirm the presence of the large carnivorous species, which last freely roamed the area on the Czech-Polish border more than 200 years ago.

The brown bear,  photo: Štěpánka Budková
The Krkonoše Mountains in the north-east of the Czech Republic used to be home to all sorts of large carnivorous species, including the brown bear. But more than 200 years ago, hunters drove the species to extinction. The Krkonoše National Park has since become one of the most visited national parks in Europe and the presence of the brown bear would be something of a sensation.

Jakub Kašpar, deputy head of the Krkonoše National Park:

“The only report we have is from the Polish broadcaster Radio Wroclaw. The bear was spotted by a jogger who reported he saw a female brown bear with cubs. Our Polish colleagues are still searching for footprints and other signs that would prove the presence of bear in the Krkonoše Mountains.”

The spotting appeared on the Polish side of the Krkonoše, on a tourist trail in Sowia Dolina, just 15 kilometres from the Czech town of Broumov.

Although scientists still don’t have any evidence of its presence, Jakub Kašpar says it is quite unlikely that the jogger would mistake the bear for any other animal species.

The animal most probably wandered to the area from the Carpathians. If it really was a female, it must have come already during winter, because it couldn’t cover the journey of several hundred kilometres with young cubs.

Jakub Kašpar,  photo: KRNAP
So how likely is it that the animal could settle in the Krkonoše Mountains?

“You never know in case of nature, because it is very dynamic and autonomous. In 2010, nobody expected that lynx and wolves could come back to Krkonoše but today we have both species back in the mountains. Lynx have settled here permanently and wolves can be found some 30 kilometres from the mountain range.

“But especially due to the high number of tourists, I don’t think it will become a favourite spot for the brown bear. However, there are some smaller areas which are quieter and which are not crossed by so many tourist trails, so these very few areas could be inhabited by the brown bear.”

Since the spotting occurred at a remote area of the national park, Mr. Kašpar says an encounter with the animal is very unlikely. Wild animals are usually very shy and try to stay away from people.

“If people stay on marked tourist trails, especially in the core zone of the national park, they will be safe. There are several things to do if you meet a brown bear. It’s very important not to go close to the animal, not to leave food outside your backpack and so on. So I would just like to ask people to look around – and if they see any footprints or a living animal, let us know.”

Krkonoše,  photo: Magdaléna Kašubová