Polish national park closes trails to protect bear cub sighted on ski slope

The Tatra National Park (TPN) in Poland’s mountainous south is monitoring a brown bear cub sighted several times in recent days on and around a popular skiing route. Officials say it needs to find its mother, and have closed trails in the area to protect the bears and humans.

“The bear family has sensed spring,” wrote the TPN in a Facebook post, sharing a video of the cub wandering along part of the ski trail between Kasprowy Wierch and Kuźnice, followed down by a skier.

“An endearing sight, but let’s remember that the mother might be nearby! Encounters between humans and she-bears with their young can be dangerous for both sides!”

There are only around 110 brown bears in Poland, most of them living in the Bieszczady Mountains, according to WWF figures. There are 50 or 60 in the Tatra Mountains as a whole, but most live on the Slovakian side of the border.

On Saturday, the TPN closed three hiking and skiing trails to “give some peace and quiet” to the family of bears, with staff patrolling the entrance to the paths to make sure nobody enters.

“We decided to close the trail because there are bear dens there,” said Filip Zięba of the TPN, quoted by Gazeta Krakowska. “We are counting on the cub meeting its mother. There are also adult bear tracks there.”

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One female bear in the area is wearing a telemetric collar showing that she has not emerged from her den, but the TPN officials do not know whether the cub, which is only a few weeks old, is hers. It might have fallen out of the den if it is on a steep slope, Zięba explained, as happened a few years ago.

On that occasion there was no happy ending for the cub, which was eaten by another adult bear. “But perhaps that allowed her cubs to survive,” Zięba added. Such situations are commonplace in nature and must be allowed to take their course without human intervention, he said.

Last week, however, a bear on the Slovakian side of the Tatras was shot dead by officials, who said that “due to the irresponsible behaviour of tourists, it had stopped showing signs of shyness and began to endanger the safety of visitors to the national park”, reports Onet.

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Closure of trails in the TNR is not uncommon at this time of year. Last week, the park shared a video showing bear cubs frolicking, explaining that mothers give birth to one to three cubs every two years, which remain in their care until autumn the following year.

After emerging from hibernation, they must replenish their energy, with carrion dug up from under the snow, grubs and coltsfoot plants being their favoured feasts until the appearance of nutritious berries.

Main image credit: Freeride Academy/Facebook (screenshot)

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