The brown bear is one of the largest carnivores in the world, roaming the forests across much of Eastern and Northern Europe, North America, and parts of Asia. While they aren’t on the endangered list, spotting one in the wild can be a rare and exciting event! If you want to learn how to see bears in Romania then you have come to the right place!
Bears in Romania
If you are keen to spot a bear in the wild then look no further than the Carpathian Mountains. This mountain range cuts across Central and Eastern Europe with much of the range centered in Romania, Slovakia, Poland and Ukraine. Here, you can find the largest concentrations of lynxes, wolves, chamois, and brown bears – with the highest concentration in Romania.
Romania is home to approximately 6,000 brown bears who live in the vast forests not too far from Brasov. They generally forage in the mornings or early evenings and spend their days snoozing under foliage. Experienced local trackers are able to examine the scratches in trees, footprints, broken sticks and droppings to find these bears in the vast mountain ranges. As you track these magnificent animals you will learn more about their diet, habitat, life-cycle and threats.
Tracking bears – hiking in the mountains
We spent a day hiking in the spectacular Carpathian Mountains with an experienced scientist and guide, searching for a rare glimpse of a wild bear.
Our guide, Dan, taught us how to look for the signs of bears in the grass, mud and even on the bark of trees. Just like in the Jungle Book, the bears use trees as scratching posts and their fur often gets stuck in the bark, especially if there is some sap for it to stick to. We could also see their claw marks in trees and branches as they hunted for food.
As the day wore on, we hadn’t been lucky enough to spot any bears so we waited near a strawberry patch that the bears were known to love. After a few hours we gave up on that spot as well and just enjoyed the scenery – how could you not enjoy somewhere this beautiful!
What threats do bears face?
Globally, bears face a number of challenges including hunting and game trophy hunting, bear bile farming, habitat destruction, and human/bear conflict.
Sadly, in Romania, many bears have been used in the entertainment industry or kept as pets. Bears have been working in circuses, kept as attractions at petrol stations or restaurants, or at poorly managed zoos. While Romanian and EU legislation made it illegal to keep a bear and required zoos to maintain a certain level of animal management, it wasn’t possible to confiscate the animals as there was nowhere to safely put them. Then came Libearty Bear Sanctuary.
Meeting rescued bears – Libearty Bear Sanctuary
In 2005, construction began on Libearty Bear Sanctuary as a place to house these rescued bears. Today, they are home to over 70 bears who live in large, forested enclosures that are about 66 acres in size. You might be picturing an area a bit like a zoo, but really it is more like a mini forest. There are forested areas that are so lush you can’t see through the trees, fresh water pools for the bears to cool off in, and hibernation dens deep in the forest. While they can’t live in the wild, this comes pretty close!
In order to help fund the upkeep of the sanctuary, including feeding the bears, their medical treatment, wildlife awareness programs and future bear rescues, the sanctuary allows a limited number of visitors. Tours are held once per day around feeding time and this allows guests to see the bears before they return to the forest to sleep.
After our failed bear hike, we visited the sanctuary to learn more about bears and see some of the animals that had been rescued. I really admired the fact that the sanctuary puts the bears first. By limiting human interaction, the bears are given a relatively normal life and are free to roam around.
If you are planning a trip to Romania, make sure to include Libearty on your itinerary!
Have you seen a bear in the wild? Comment below with your story!