A CRACK team of government experts and Guardia Civil nature protection officers from the force’s SEPRONA arm reconvened on the morning of Friday June 3 to continue the search for an evasive bear that may have escaped from the Cabarceno Wildlife Park in Cantabria.
The animal was supposedly spotted by three ‘reliable’ young men a few kilometres from the park on Wednesday June 1, who said they had seen what was “clearly a big brown bear” near the river in the hamlet of Casas del Monte, although no footprints or other evidence have been found.
The news and subsequent emergency operation has created great interest on national television, with the major channels sending camera crews to the northern region in order to follow proceedings.
Wildlife park director, Miguel Oti, says that no damage to the perimeter fence of the massive bear exhibit has been detected, claiming that an escape would be very unlikely.
“The whole complex is electrified and the wires are connected to an alarm, which has not been activated at any time this week.”
There are ‘approximately’ 80 brown bears inhabiting the 35-hectare exhibit, where they live in semi-natural surroundings, but it is not possible to count them to see if any are missing since the space is filled with cavities and caves meaning many remain hidden during the day.
Park staff do occasionally use anaesthetic darts to tranquilise individuals, but only when there are health concerns or the animal is to have a microchipped tag inserted.
Chief veterinarian and bear specialist Santiago Borrigan said that the three boys who claim to have seen the critter are ‘normal guys’ and that nothing has made him doubt their testimony, especially since a married couple later saw what appeared to be a large bear as they drove on a nearby road.
Borrigan also stressed that bears are not particularly dangerous animals as far as humans are concerned and that no-one should be afraid, since “this is not a tiger.”
One option that has not been mooted in Spanish reports is that the bear may simply be a wild individual, with Cantabria continuing to support around 40 brown bears, although these are concentrated around a hundred kilometres southwest of Cabarceno.