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Ambassadors Programme


Marina Cano


The story of the newborn brown bears

By Marina Cano, Thursday October 22, 2015
Danger could be lurking around any corner.

Danger could be lurking around any corner. © Marina Cano

My hometown is 20 minutes away from Cabarceno, the largest wildlife park in Europe, where over 100 species live in semi-free conditions. It is here where I began taking wildlife pictures some 14 years ago.

If you can’t afford to go on safari in Africa, this is your best bet in Europe. Over the years, I went so often that I fell in love with the animals. Every day presents new opportunities; the light in the sky, moody weather and changing seasons. The animals are as wild as can be, so I learnt to expect the unexpected – I love it!

From over 100 species residing in the wildlife park, one of my favourites is the bears.

Surrounded by an impressive karst landscape, more than 60 brown bears live in a 40-hectare space. This rugged terrain, full of caves and hollows, holds the largest reserve of brown bears in Europe. Their behaviour in the park echoes how bears act in the wild.

Come January, female bears begin giving birth. These tiny cubs are born blind, fully dependent on their mothers. The cubs remain in caves until they are three to four months old. Then they are ready to climb, run and start learning from ‘Mum’.

Danger could be lurking around any corner. From their lofty position, the cubs only hear the roar of their mother as she fights off a male to protect them. She has already taught them to run away and hide when this sort of situation occurs.

Last spring I was looking forward to meeting the new cubs. This season, nine bears were born. I began watching them in May. I saw two mothers that used to meet up together – one with one baby and other with two. When the bears met the babies played together, but one of the mothers always appeared apprehensive letting her two babies play with the larger single cub. After a couple of minutes, the mothers always ended up fighting. Several days later, after their last fight, I no longer saw the mother with the two cubs.

I did however observe another friendship in a similar situation: a mother with one cub and another with two. The mothers found a balance, staying together most of the time for the mutual protection of their offspring. In July, these three cubs were the only survivors... so far.

In late July, I found another mother with a baby. She was very young and lived by herself; her cub was clearly smaller than the other three. I was worried about them.

In August, the cubs had grown into adults. By the end of September, I was happy to see that all bears had survived. The babies were double the weight and the mothers too.

Summer is now over and they must accumulate fat to face the long winter. Well done!

Pictures taken with Canon EOS-1D X and EOS 5DS DSLRs, plus EF200-400mm f/4L IS USM EXTENDER 1.4x and EF300mm f/2.8L IS II USM lenses.

Then they are ready to climb, run and start learning from mum.

Then they are ready to climb, run and start learning from mum. © Marina Cano

This tiny cub follows her or his mother without fear in a vertical wall. A few seconds after taking  this picture the cub fell, but survived.

This tiny cub follows her or his mother without fear in a vertical wall. A few seconds after taking
this picture the cub fell, but survived. © Marina Cano