Bear Watching – Somiedo Natural Park

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It’s such a rare privilege to see the Spanish Brown bear. The latest figures estimate there to be just 210 bears left in the Cantabrian Mountains of Spain. At the beginning of the 20th century there were still a thousand bears but, just 50 years later they had been  hunted almost to extinction. Happily their numbers are now on the rise thanks to a major conservation drive over the last 30 years.

I was fortunate enough to see and film this mother and two cubs in Somiedo Natural Park, Asturias on the evening of June 2nd 2011. The story of how I came to see them is curious. I was spending two weeks walking in Somiedo and happened to mention to Laura on-line one evening that I really wanted to see a bear. I had seen tracks and scat but no actual bear. She suggested I “ask bear for a dream” before going to sleep that night. I did this and that night I had a dream about bees coming out the headboard of my bed. I didn’t think too much about it to be honest but the next morning, whilst enjoying my coffee and watching the sunshine waking up the valley, I noticed a jeep approaching. It turned out to be the bear ranger! He told me to go to a particular place that evening and… sure enough, there they were! How synchronous is that? Actually this kind of thing is typical of Somiedo. You get into this amazing flow state while walking and improbable things start happening! I spent a fantastic 45 minutes observing them. It was a real highlight of my life and I hope you enjoy this short clip too.

Mothers tend to hide new cubs in the rocky high places so as to avoid any male bears who might kill them to bring her back into season. Living in such precarious terrain is risky. If you look closely you will see that at 2.54 one of the cubs nearly falls off the cliff! Luckily, it managed to claw it’s way back up at the last moment!

During the Walking in Spirit retreat we offer some optional opportunities to observe bears, depending, of course, on what information we have about where they are. You never know, you may be fortunate enough to be with us the next time we see one.

We look forward to walking with you in 2013
Frankie Sikes

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