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02 April 2024

Abundance and distribution of the Bieszczady bear population

Between 2022 and 2024, the Nature and Science Foundation conducted a study to determine the current abundance and the size and location of the core area of the Bieszczady brown bear population.

The study was based on own fieldwork covering the Carpathian part of Podkarpackie Province. In total, nearly 1000 h were devoted to field work, during which nearly 12,500 km were traveled, of which 2,500 on foot or by bicycle. As a result of this work, 427 bear signs were recorded and 202 samples were collected for genetic studies. Our own field data were supplemented by data on the damage caused by bears. These data were obtained from the Regional Directorate for Environmental Protection in Rzeszów. The study showed that the core area of the Bieszczady bear population currently covers about 2.2 thousand km².

The abundance of the Bieszczady bear population was assessed based on genetic identification of individuals. For this purpose, samples were collected from fresh scats and hairs found on bear-marked trees and fences through which the bears passed. DNA was isolated from the samples collected and the genetic profiles of the individuals from which the samples originated were then determined. Finally, using a suitable statistical model, the total population size was determined. The calculations carried out showed that the current Bieszczady bear population numbers 104 individuals. A similar study, using the same methods, was carried out in 2009, when the size of the Bieszczady population was estimated at 83 bears. This means that in 13 years the population has increased by 25%, which gives an average annual increase of 1.9%. Such a low increase is not surprising, as bears have a very low reproduction rate.

The research was co-financed by WWF Poland. The results of the conducted research were made available in report No. 1/2024 (in Polish), the link to which can be found on the "Publications" subpage.

Author: Wojciech Śmietana