Brown bear Ursus arctos - Dabas aizsardzības pārvalde

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Brown bear Ursus arctos - Dabas aizsardzības pārvalde

ADOPTED

By the Minister of Environment

Precept No. .

2009 .

Action Plan

For the Conservation of Brown Bear (Ursus arctos) in Latvia

Photo by V. Vītola ©

Produced by: Latvian State Forestry Research Institute „Silava”

Authors: Jānis OZOLIŅŠ, Guna BAGRADE, Agrita ŽUNNA, Aivars ORNICĀNS and

Žanete ANDERSONE-LILLEY

Salaspils

2009 (2003)

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Contents

LATVIAN SUMMARY .................…………….………………………………………..

SUMMARY …………………………….……….………..……………………………….

INTRODUCTION ………………………….……….………..……………………………...

1. SPECIES DESCRIPTION .........................................................................................

1.1. Taxonomy and morphology …….……….………..…………………………….

1.2. Ecology and habitat ..………….…………………...…………………………..

1.3. Species distribution .……………………………………………………..…………………

1.4. Species status ...............………………………………..………………………

1.5. Current research and monitoring in Latvia and abroad ...…………………….

2. REASONS FOR CHANGES IN THE SPECIES AND ITS HABITAT ……………….

2.1. Factors affecting the population…………………………………………………

2.2. Factors affecting the habitat …………………………………………………...

3. CURRENT CONSERVATION OF THE SPECIES AND ITS HABITAT .............................

3.1. Legislation .............................................……………………………………..

3.2. Species and habitat conservation measures .…………………………………………

3.3. Bear conservation plan in relation to other species and habitat conservation plans …

3.4. Risk analysis of implementation of the current Species conservation plan ……..

4. GOALS AND TASKS OF THE SPECIES CONSEVATION PLAN ……………………

5. SPECIES AND HABITAT CONSERVATION MEASURES .....................................

5.1. Legislation and nature conservation policy ……………………………………….....

5.2. Species conservation measures ...........................………………………………………..

5.3. Habitat conservation measures ....................……………………………………

5.4. Species research and monitoring …………………………………………………………..

5.5. Awareness-raising and education ...................………………………………………………...

5.6. Review of the implementation table …………………………………………………....

6. IMPLEMENTATION OF THE SPECIES CONSERVATION PLAN …………………

7. REFERENCES ………………………………………

APPENDICES

………………………………………………………………

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Kopsavilkums


Aizsardzības politika

Sugas aizsardzības plāns ir izstrādāts saskaņā ar Sugu un biotopu aizsardzības likuma (izsludināts

05.04.2000.) 17. panta prasībām un paredzēts lāču ilgtermiņa aizsardzības nodrošināšanai Latvijā un

Baltijas populācijā.


Populācijas stāvoklis

Latvijā dzīvojošie brūnie lāči pieder Baltijas populācijai, kas ir apmēram 6800 indivīdu liela, taču

izvietota galvenokārt uz ziemeļiem un austrumiem no mūsu valsts robežām. Latvijā lāči biežāk sastopami

valsts austrumu daļā: Aizkraukles, Alūksnes, Balvu, Gulbenes, Jēkabpils, Limbažu, Ludzas, Madonas,

Ogres, Rīgas, Valkas un Valmieras rajonos. Viens vai daži lāči uzturas arī valsts rietumos – Kurzemē.

Lāču skaits Latvijā ir svārstīgs un vērtējams 10-15 indivīdu robežās. Nav pierādījumu, ka lāči Latvijas

teritorijā vairotos. Populācijas eksistencē izšķiroša loma ir lāču ieceļošanas iespējām no kaimiņvalstīm.

Lāču skaits un izplatība valstī ir salīdzinoši nemainīga kopš 20. gadsimta septiņdesmitajiem gadiem.


Stāvoklis likumdošanā

Brūnais lācis ir īpaši aizsargājams dzīvnieks saskaņā ar Sugu un biotopu aizsardzības likumu

(05.04.2000) un Ministru kabineta noteikumu Nr. 627 Grozījumi Ministru kabineta 2000. gada 14.

novembra noteikumos Nr. 396 “Noteikumi par īpaši aizsargājamo sugu un ierobežoti izmantojamo īpaši

aizsargājamo sugu sarakstu” (14.11.2000) 1. pielikumu. Par brūnā lāča nogalināšanu vai savainošanu

jāatlīdzina zaudējumi 40 minimālo mēnešalgu apmērā par katru indivīdu.


Saglabāšanas mērķis

Netraucēt dabiskos procesus, kas risinās vienotā Baltijas valstu un Krievijas rietumdaļas (Baltijas)

brūno lāču populācijā, tajā skaitā dabisku izplatīšanos Latvijas teritorijā, neveicot pasākumus, lai mākslīgi

paplašināt lāču areālu Latvijas teritorijā vai radītu vairoties spējīgu vietējo populāciju.


Saglabāšanas prioritātes

Uzturēt monitoringa sistēmu, lai iegūtu zināšanas par populācijas stāvokli un aizsardzībai turpmāk

nepieciešamajiem pasākumiem.

Sekot sabiedriskās domas tendencēm saistībā ar lāču populācijas stāvokli un interešu konfliktu

biežumu.

Savlaicīgi izplatīt objektīvu informāciju par lāčiem un ar tiem saistītiem notikumiem masu saziņas

līdzekļos, neveicinot mītu, nostāstu un pārspīlējumu rašanos. Organizēt izskaidrošanas darbu par

faktoriem, kas kavē lāču atgriešanos Latvijā, un nosacījumiem, kas jāievēro, lai droši sadzīvotu ar šo

apdraudēto savvaļas sugu.

Samazināt tiešu traucējumu laikā, kad lāči meklē vietu ziemas midzenim un ziemas guļas periodā (no

1. novembra līdz 31. martam). Pasākums veicams, pamatojoties uz pierādījumiem par lāču atrašanos

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konkrētajā teritorijā un panākot vienošanos ar attiecīgās teritorijas apsaimniekotājiem. Neieviest

bezkompromisa prasības, kas padara neiespējamu iedzīvotāju līdzšinējo saimniecisko darbību vai atpūtas

tradīcijas un tādejādi noskaņo sabiedrību pret sugas atjaunošanu Latvijā.


Veicamie pasākumi

Jāuztur elektronisks lāču izplatības faktu reģistrs (datu bāze), ko iespējams aktualizēt un papildināt gan

profesionāliem speciālistiem, gan brīvprātīgiem ziņotājiem.

Ievācot materiālu no Latvijas lāčiem (apmatojums, svaigi ekskrementi), jāturpina ģenētiskie pētījumi par

dzīvnieku izcelsmi sadarbībā ar Igaunijas speciālistiem.

Informācija par lāču izplatīšanās ceļiem jāizmanto, izvērtējot vides prasības Latvijas transporta tīkla

rekonstrukcijai un attīstībai.

Jāuztur kontakti un informācijas apmaiņa ar Latvijas biškopības biedrību.

Jāsadarbojas ar medību tiesību lietotājiem, mežu īpašniekiem un apsaimniekotājiem, tos informējot par

lāču izplatības faktiem un aizsardzības aktualitātēm.

Jāorganizē izglītojošs darbs skolu jaunatnei.

Konfliktu gadījumos lēmumu par lāča bīstamību jāpieņem vienu un to pašu speciālistu grupai vai

pārstāvim neatkarīgi no konflikta vietas un rakstura.

Nākošā rīcības plāna aktualizācija veicama 2014. gadā.

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Summary


Conservation policy

Species Action Plan is elaborated according to Clause 17 of the Species and Habitat Protection Law

(issued on 05.04.2000.). It is designed for the long-term conservation of bears in Latvia and the whole

Baltic population.


Population status

Latvian brown bears belong to the Baltic population consisting of about 6800 individuals, most of who are

found to the north and east from the Latvian border. In Latvia, bears are most common in the eastern part of the

country: in Aizkraukle, Alūksne, Balvi, Gulbene, Jēkabpil, Limbaži, Ludza, Madona, Ogre, Rīga, Valka

and Valmiera districts. The numbe of bears in Latvia fluctuates about 10-15 individuals. There is no

evidence of breeding in the territory of Latvia. Immigration of bears from the neighbouring countries is

critical for the Latvian bear population’s existence. The number and distribution of bears in the country is

relatively unchanged since the 1970s.


Legislation.

According to the Species and Habitat Protection Law (05.04.2000.) and to Annex I of the Regulations No.

396 of the Cabinet of Ministers „Regulation on the species list of especially protected species and of species

of limited use” (14.11.2000.), brown bear is a specially protected species. The fine for killing or injuring a

brown bear is 40 minimum salaries for each individual.


Conservation objective

Not to disturb natural processes happening in the joint Baltic brown bear population (comprising the

Baltic States and western part of Russia), including natural dispersal of bears in the territory of Latvia

while at the same time not undertaking any special measures in order to artificially increase bear

distribution in Latvia or to establish a local breeding population.


Conservation priorities

To maintain the monitoring system in order to obtain data on the population status an necessary

conservation measures.

To follow trends in public opinion in relation to the brown bear population status and the frequency of

interest conflicts.

To timely spread objective information on bears and related issues in the mass media, preventing

rumours and exaggerations. To explain factors preventing the return of the brown bear to Latvia and

preconditions for a safe co-existence with this species.

To reduce direct disturbance during the time when bears are looking for winter dens as well as during

hibernation (1 November – 31 March). This should be base done the evidence of bear presence in a given

area achieving the agreement with the appropriate territory managers. Not to introduce non-compromising

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equirements that make the existing activities and territory uses impossible, thus creating a negative

attitude towards species renovation in Latvia.

Measures

To maintain an electronic database on bear distribution that could be updated by both professionals and

volunteer reporters.

To collect samples from the Latvian bears (hairs, fresh scats) in order to continue genetic research of the

individuals’ origin in cooperation with the Estonian experts.

Information on bear dispersal routes should be used when assessing environmental requirements for

reconstruction and development of the Latvian road network.

To keep in touch and exchange information with the Latvian beekeepers’ society.

To cooperate with users of hunting rights, forest owners and managers, informing them about bear

distribution and conservation news.

To organise awareness-raising among schoolchildren.

In case of conflicts, the decision about whether a bear poses a threat to the public should always be taken

by the same group of experts regardless of the location and nature of the conflict.

The next update of the plan to be carried out in 2014.

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Introduction

Despite its rarity in modern Latvia, brown bear Ursus arctos is a typical mammal species of the East

Baltic that came to the territory of Latvia after the last Ice Age, i.e., about 9,000-11,000 years ago

(Tauriņš 1982; Timm et al. 1998). In the end of the 19th – beginning of the 20th century, the Latvian

brown bear population was totally destroyed and there is no evidence of breeding in the territory of Latvia

for more than 100 years. Looking at this fact superficially, it is unclear why there are so few bears in the

country that on the whole still has got very rich biodiversity while in neighbouring Estonia bear

population is so big that it should be regulated by hunting. At the same time, it is possible that the

absence of bears in the habitat has a smaller impact on other species compared to other large carnivores –

wolves, lynx and wolverines (that are extinct in Latvia). Bear’s ecological niche is not so unique and

overlaps with other, more numerous species, such as badger, pine marten and wild boar. Besides, these

food competitors of the brown bear breed much quicker and adapt to the human presence much easier.

As the largest European predator with a relatively long life expectancy and seasonally divided life cycle,

bear has a lot of specific requirements in relation to its environment. These requirements are related to the

rest of the natural environment, human activities and also such environmental factors as climate. Due to

the scarcity of bears in Latvia, the inventory of these requirements in Latvia is still not finished, therefore,

we are unable to provide any specific recommendations for habitat conservation and improvement,

including establishment of new protected areas which is usually the most essential measure in rare species

conservation. It is much more important at the moment to carefully monitor population development and

to ensure cooperation between the relevant institutions as well as to inform and raise awareness amongst

the general public.

The most important task at the moment is to assess as fully as possible human – bear coexistence. This

assessment should be based both on the local and international experience. At the same time one has to

realise that if the bear conservation is successful and its protection regime is increased, it is likely that

these animals will come into contact with humans more and more often and that will be the determining

factor for the brown bear’s future in our country.

The goal of the updated bear action plan is to provide the existing species conservation system with

the newest scientific information and experience obtained since 2003. The most significant difference

in the updated plan is a broader, more regional approach and a stronger emphasis on species

conservation measures in Latvia in close connection with the status on the Baltic population level.

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1. Species description

1.1. Taxonomy and morphology

Brown bear is a mammal that belongs to the order of carnivores (Carnivora), bear family (Ursidae).

There are 8 bear species in the world (Kruuk 2002) of those brown bear along with the polar bear are the

largest ones (Гептнер и.д.1967). Various taxonomists published very different division into sub-species.

However, according to any of those divisions, it is the Eurasian brown bear Ursus arctos arctos that is

found in Latvia and the neighbouring countries. Body length of an adult brown bear male can reach

200cm, its weight – 300hk. Some individuals can reach even up to 480kg (Новиков 1956). Females on

average are smaller: about 70% of male’s length (Гептнер и.д.1967) and about 200kg (Kojola, Laitala

2001). Sex dimorphism can also be seen in the growth rate – males grow faster but after 10 years the

difference between sexes in the weight growth rate stops. Skull measurements in Sweden show that males

continue growing in length up to the age of 5-8 years, females – up to 3-4 years (Iregren et al. 2001).

There are no other significant signs of sexual dimorphism amongst bears. According to the body size and

especially skull measurements in relation to the age it is possible to judge the geographic and population

origin of an individual (Iregren, Ahlström 1999).

The body is massive, with a big head, long muzzle and short, thick neck (Fig. 1). In poor light

conditions, it is possible to mistake a bear for a wild boar that can be the reason of non-premeditated

killing of a bear by hunters.

The fur is long and thick. Pelt colour varies from greyish- or yellowish-brown to dark brown or

almost black (Tauriņš 1982). In Belarus, young animals with a white collar zone or white spots on the

chest and shoulders are described (Vaisfeld, Chestin 1993).

The main indirect signs of bar presence (Clevenger 1994) are footprints (Fig. 2), scats and claw marks

on trees. Russian scientists regards the width of the front paw’s print a sure individual sign that strongly

correlates with the body weight, it exceeds 13.5cm in adult specimens (Vaisfeld, Chestin 1993).

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Fig.1. A silhouette of a subadult bear (by V. Vītola).

Fig. 2. The print of a brown bear’s front paw (left) and hind paw (right).

1.2. Ecology and habitat

Brown bears are not as fussy in habitat selection as it is often believed. The main requirements

towards the environment are plentiful food and safe hibernation and breeding places. In Latvia, such

conditions can be best ensured by non-fragmented forest massifs with little human disturbance as well as

islands in big peat bogs.

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Brown bears are omnivores and feed mainly by picking food from the ground, digging it from the soil,

tearing the bark off trees and stumps as well as grazing and browsing on plants. However, in certain parts

of its distribution range and in certain seasons, hunting (by stalking) is also important as well as fishing in

sites of fish concentrations (Новиков 1956, Гептнер и.д.1967, Сабанеев 1988, Vaisfeld, Chestin 1993,

Hilderbrand et al. 1999). Plant food constitutes a high proportion of its diet: In the Pskov oblast, bears

often feed the fields of oats or mixture of oats/peas (Vaisfeld, Chestin 1993). In early summer, bears

browse on young tree shoots and leaves, especially aspens. In mid-summer and its second half, wild

berries become a staple food. In the autumn, acorns are consumed. However, seasonally, especially in the

northern part of the bear distribution range (Новиков 1956), meat plays an important role in the bear diet.

Bear can prey on big animals. In northern Scandinavia, in spring and summer, the staple food for bears

are adult moose and reindeer, in the second half of the summer they switch to wild berries, although still

consume a lot of wild ungulates - up to 30% of the energy consumed (Persson et al. 2001). Wild boar is

preyed upon rarely. Bears also attack livestock, especially horses and cattle. Animals that learned to look

for food in human settlements, also attack chickens and other domestic birds. It is concluded that in the

NW of Russia, bear attacks on livestock almost ceased when in the second half of the 20 th century moose

density increased and small farms were destroyed by collectivisation. Also in Estonia, livestock damage

is very infrequent. In spring, carcasses (especially those of moose) of animals that died due to injuries by

hunters or fell through the ice are a significant part of the diet (Vaisfeld, Chestin 1993). Ants and their

larvae play an important role in the bear diet. In order to get them, bears actively excavate anthills. In

Sweden, it was found out that ant remains form up to 16% of scat volume. Ants are especially important

to bears in springtime when other foods are scarce and ants, due to low temperatures, are sluggish and

concentrate in the upper part of the anthill (Swenson et al. 1999). Also in Belarus, bears actively excavate

anthills after snowmelt (Vaisfeld, Chestin 1993).

In Eurasia, brown bears normally pose no threat to humans. Even mother bears, when defending

their cubs, usually scare a human away with a series of snarls and short chase instead of direct attack

(Новиков 1956). Some cases are known from Russia when bears displayed aggressive behaviour even

towards tractors, although such situations usually have some explanation (Κорытин 1986). An injured

bear can be very dangerous. Attacks on humans are much more common for the North American subspecies

of the brown bear – grizzly bear (Floyd 1999, Kruuk 2002).

Daily activity is not particularly cyclic (Гептнер и.д. 1967). In Latvia, bear observations can

happen during any time of day but the damage to beehives is usually done during the night.

Brown bear does not truly hibernate. Its body temperature decreases by 3-5˚C only, and bears

keep the ability to synthesise all the necessary amino acids (Hissa 1997). Observations from Russia show

that in the first phase of hibernation the bear can quickly leave the den if disturbed or if it smells food,

e.g., a moose approaching (Сабанеев 1988). For hibernation, bears choose undisturbed sites, e.g.,

windfalls, islands in the bogs or lakes. In NW Russia, 70% of the known bear dens were situated in

spruce growths (Vaisfeld, Chestin 1993). According to the Swedish data, female bears on average spend

181 day in a den. Females that give birth to cubs during that winter “sleep” about a month longer than

single females. Hibernation period starts in the end of October, although even before that females attend

the den site more often than the rest of their home range. Starting from the 6 th week before hibernation,

female bears decrease their level of activity and hang around the den site. If disturbed in the beginning of

hibernation, females do not come back to the den but choose a new site up to 6km away from the previous

one (Friebe et al. 2001).

Although there have been several reports on finding bear hibernation dens in Latvia (Pilāts,

Ozoliņš 2003), we did not succeed in checking those cases. On 23 January 2005, during wild boar hunting

with beaters in the Beja forestry unit (Alūksne district) a big male was disturbed in its den (Ozoliņš 2005).

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The bear quickly left the den, did not attack the dogs and ran across a clear-cut. It urinated on the run and

the position of urine on both sides of the track was an indication that it was a male bear. The den was

situated about 5m from the western edge of the clear-cut between small (up to 3m high) spruce trees.

There was a slight depression that was covered by spruce twigs obtained from the nearby young spruce

trees. The biggest spruce tree (trunk diameter 9cm) was broken in such a way as to cover the den from the

western side. The den was only about 400m form a frequently used forest track. The clear-cut was wet,

with water puddles, overgrown by 2-5m tall birches and some spruces, aspens and willows. A few metres

away, an older den, possibly used by the bear during the previous winter, was found. In the vicinity, there

were lots of signs of moose and wild boar. A print of a front paw was found nearby, its size (17.5cm)

showed that the bear was a big adult male (Vaisfeld, Chestin 1993). This incident proves that the opinion

from the Latvian Red Data Book (Andrušaitis 2000) that Latvian bears do not hibernate is not correct and

is most likely due to the data on the winter activities of the individuals that were woken up from

hibernation by disturbance.

Brown bear is polygamous. Males live separately and do not take part in raising cubs. The mating

season takes place in early summer – June-first half of July. Bears mature sexually at the age of 5-8 years.

Females mate only every second year as cubs stay with the mother up to 2 years (Гептнер и.д. 1967,

Tauriņš 1982, Lõhmus 2002). Cubs are born during hibernation in the second half of winter. Their weight

does not exceed 500g at birth (Новиков 1956). In the Novgorod and Pskov oblast, the average litter size

is 2.23 (Vaisfeld, Chestin 1993). In Estonia, the average litter size is 1.8 (Lõhmus 2002). Potential

fecundity of bears can be much higher – up to 6 cubs but such cases are rare (Vaisfeld, Chestin 1993).

Usually, mother bear does not defend cubs in the den and abandon them when escaping but in spring and

summer, after leaving the den, it actively defends cubs, also from humans (Vaisfeld, Chestin 1993). Sex

ratio at birth is 1:1, though there is a slight male prevalence in the population (Vaisfeld, Chestin 1993).

When dispersing from the central part of the population towards the edge of the homerange and to new

territories, a different demographic structure forms: the proportion of males increases, especially that of

sub-adult males 2-4 years old (Swenson et al. 1998). Also, females have smaller litters (Kojola, Laitala

2000). When studying dispersal differences between male and female grizzly bears, it was concluded that

this kind of information is very important. It helps planning protected areas in such a way that facilitates

restoration of the distribution range, decreases inbreeding and animal mortality outside the protected areas

(McLellan, Hovey 2001).

Bears do not have natural enemies in Europe and their life span may exceed 30 years (Гептнер

и.д. 1967). Cubs have a high mortality in their first year. It is known that cubs can be killed by other adult

bears. It is believed that this is mainly done by immigrant adult males (Swenson, Sandegren et al. 2001).

According to the Scandinavian research, young bears can be killed up to the age of 3 years. The reasons

for this phenomenon are unclear (Swenson, Dahle et al. 2001). In Belarus, it is believed that wolves are to

be blamed for the mortality of cubs and juveniles (Vaisfeld, Chestin 1993).

Under favourable conditions, bear numbers can increase relatively quickly. In Scandinavia, it was

found that in 1985-1995, the annual population increase was 10-15% (Zedrosser et al. 2001). Besides, it is

typical for bears to disperse outside the main distribution range before the carrying capacity is reached in

its central part (Swenson et al. 1998).

Due to a long life span and successful survival of adult individuals, even very small micropopulations

can survive for a certain period. In the West Pyrenees, on the border between France and

Spain, only 6 bears live in an area of 1000 km², and in the South Alps in Italy, 4 bears live in an area of

240 km². Such isolated populations cannot exist in the long term without artificial measures like

introduction of new animals (Zedrosser et al. 2001). Modelling the development of a grizzly bear

11


population, it was concluded that the minimum population size should be 200-250, and the area – 8556 –

17 843 km², depending on the possible density in a given area (Wielgus 2002).

In Latvia, boreal forests are the most appropriate bear habitat, especially where spruce dominates,

with admixture of other tree species. It requires diverse forest structure, thick undergrowth, numerous

rivers and lakes, raised bogs with lots of inaccessible places like windfalls (Новиков 1956, Tauriņš 1982,

Vaisfeld, Chestin1993).

1.3. Species distribution

The brown bear appeared in the territory of Latvia in the early holocene, i.e., around 8000 (Tauriņš 1982;

Mugurēvičs Ē., Mugurēvičs A. 1999). Estonian researchers mention an even earlier date no later than

11,000 years ago (Valdmann and Saarma 2001). Excavations show that during the bronze era (1500 BP)

bear remains constituted 5.3% of all hunting remains in Latvian pre-historic settlements (Mugurēvičs Ē.,

Mugurēvičs A. 1999). Many bears were hunted in Latvia up to the second half of the 19th century.

Between 19 th and 20 th century, only a few bears remained in the eastern part of Latvia, around Lubāna and

Gulbene (Grevė 1909). The territory of Latgale was not mentioned in the report on bear distribution at the

time but it is believed that the remaining individuals in the eastern part of Vidzeme were not isolated from

the Russian population. Therefore, W.L. Lange (1970) mentions in his distribution map a link between

the areas of Lubāna and Gulbene and the border with Russia as late as in 1900. The last local bears in that

area were killed in 1921 – 1926. In the period between two world wars, those bears that periodically came

to Latvia in the area where the borders between Latvia, Estonia and Russia meet were promptly shot

between two world wars. Due to this reason, the former Forest Department deliberately did not report the

known bear observations to the forest rangers (Lange 1970), and bears were not mentioned in the official

Latvian game statistics before WWII (Kalniņš 1943). Bears began coming from Russia more often

starting from 1946 (Lange 1970), but only in the 1970s, thanks to the information obtained by J.

Lipsbergs, it was confirmed that bears are found in Latvia regularly (Tauriņš 1982). In the second half of

the 20 th century, bear population started recovering throughout Europe, the number increasing almost

twofold (Mitchell-Jones 1999). In Central Europe, bear return happens mainly in the mountainous areas

(Kaczensky, Knauer 2001) resulting in a few isolated populations (Fig. 3).

In Estonia, the bear number in the official statistics exceeded 100 already in the 1950s. The maximum

(more than 800 bears) was registered in the late 1980s and nowadays the population is estimated to be

around 600. It should be noted that in the second part of the 1980s, about 60 bears were harvested

annually for a few years in a row. Data on the bear density in the Pskov oblast in Russia confirm that

bears are relatively scarce in that area, while around lake Peipsi and the Estonian border zone the bear

density is 2-3 times higher (Vaisfeld, Chestin 1993). However, in absolute numbers, the bear population

in Pskov oblast is strong (>1000 ind.) and is growing in the recent years (Gubarj 2007). In Belarus, bears

are most common in the north, especially in the Berezin nature reserve. In Lithuania, bears are occasional

immigrants and they are not regarded as a part of the local fauna (Prūsaite et al. 1988).

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Fig. 3. Brown bear distribution in Europe in the end of the 20th/beginning of the 21st century (after

Swenson et al. 2000).

From March to September 1999, a survey on bear occurrence was carried out in all Latvian head

forestry units (except the head forestry of Bauska) as well as in all nature reserves. In total, 220

questionnaires were distributed, and 104 (47.3%) questionnaires were returned. In order to verify the most

recent data, in summer 1999, 9 expeditions were organised to those forestry units where bears were

included into the official census or fresh tracks were seen in the last 6 months: Birži, Dviete, Katleši,

Naukšēni, Nereta, Pededze, Ramata, Viesīte and Zilupe forestry units. During those expeditions, forestry

workers and local inhabitants were additionally interviewed about bear observations and damage. Also, a

search was done for fresh bear tracks on forest roads. The majority of questionnaires mentioned

observations that were older than 3 years. In all 66 questionnaires that mentioned more or less recent

information on the bear presence, respondents also mentioned the signs that proved bear occurrence. In 57

cases, bear activity igns were reported, in 37 cases, bears were observed directly. Only in 3 cases bear

cubs were observed, in other 3 cases also dens were found. Those 66 questionnaires also reported 5 bears

that got killed in Latvia. Two more cases (after 1999) are known from Alūksne district, and one bear was

deliberately shot in Valmiera district in order to prevent danger to humans. Relatively little information

was acquired on bear-caused damage – only 8 cases. In 7 cases, bears damaged beehives, and one

13


questionnaire mentioned considerable damage to an oat field. A significant case of the damage was

reported in August-September in Krāslava district, Svariņi municipality when a bear destroyed 6 beehives

in 4 attacks. In 2005, damage to apiaries in Krāslava district happened again – in total, 8 beehives were

destroyed on two farms. In 2007, in Alūksne district, Ilzene municipality, 7 beehives and a portable base

for beehives were damaged.

BALTIC SEA

ESTONIA

? 80

79 81 80 79

79 79 72 79 79

84

79

79

80 78 79

78

79

79

RUSSIA

90 79 79 79

79 77 79

83 83

65

76 78 79 79 77 77

77 88

92 84 82

89 85 84

78 79

85

89 85

84

77 85

77

82 82

77

85

86 78

LITHUANIA

82

79

78

78

?

77

BELARUS

Fig. 4. Bear observation sites and years (according to the data by J. Lipsbergs). The background shows

forest cover and borders of head forestry districts in 1990-1999.

By putting the data on the Latvian forest map, the bear distribution based on the data by

J.Lipsbergs was obtained (Fig. 4). The map based on the 1999 survey is shown in Fig. 5. Since 2000, the

situation has not changed significantly, though bears are less often observed on the left bank of Daugava

in the last few years. One bear was rumoured to be shot a couple of years ago in Lithuania not far from

the Latvian border (P. Blūzma, personal communication). The most recent distribution data can be seen in

Fig. 6.

14


86-87

BALTIC SEA

84

88

90-93

96

92

85

ESTONIA

91

96

89

80

84

81

RUSSIA

88

83 95

95

92-95

74

93-94

LITHUANIA

91

85-96

93-94

96

BELARUS

Fig. 5. Bear distribution in Latvia based on the survey of 1999. The background shows forest distribution

and borders of head forestry districts in 1990-1999.

Bears that were present in Latvia in 1999

Bears that spend part of the time in Latvia, part in the neighbouring countries

Bear observations in 1997 or 1998

95

Previous bear observations

15


6. att. Sites where bears were observed most often after 2000 (mainly the data of the State Forest Service).

When assessing bear distribution data, it should be taken into account that bears cover long distances

in spring after hibernation in order to find food as well as during the mating season when looking for a

partner. Such a high mobility caused by the low population density or lack of food can give a wrong

impression of the increase in the bear numbers and distribution (Vaisfeld, Chestin 1993). Even though

bear distribution in Latvia in the last 20 years can be regarded as stable, it is unclear how their distribution

is related to the number of individuals, i.e., whether the number of resident bears in Latvia has remained

stable. The most important bear areas where bears are most often observed are Aizkraukle, Alūksne,

Balvi, Gulbene, Jēkabpils, Limbaži, Ludza, Madona, Ogre, Rīga, Valka and Valmiera districts (Fig. 6).

According to the State Forest Service data, bear number in Latvia fluctuates around 3-15 (at the moment

no more than 12) (Fig. 7). It is still unknown whether bear dispersal westwards is related to the increase in

the bear density within the country or whether bears observed in the central and western part of Latvia are

immigrants from the neighbouring countries that have crossed eastern Latvia on the way.

16


Brown bear population status in Latvia in comparison to the neighbouring countries.

Table 1.

Estonia Latvia Lithuania Pskov Belarus

oblast

Area (km 2 ) 45,227 64,589 65,200 55,300 207,600

Humn population 1,35 2,3 3,5 0,7 9,7

(million)

Forest cover (%) 45 46* 30 >35 34

Bear population

500 10-15 0 1100 50-70

(expert estimates)

Number of bears 20-30 - - 23 -

harvested per year

Hunting season 01.08.-31.10. - - 01.08.-28.02. -

Estimate basis Females with

cubs are

counted

Accidental

observations

- State

monitoring

Expert

opinions

* In 2008, it was 50.2% (according to the Forest Register data)

16

14

12

10

8

6

4

2

0

90 91 92 93 94 95 96 97 98 99 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008

Fig.7. Bear dynamics in Latvia since 1990 (according to the official statistics of the State Forest Service).

1.4. Species status

Bears have been protected in Latvia since 1977. The status of the brown bear in Latvia is still the

same as described in teh Lavian Red Data Book of 1980 (Andrušaitis 1985): Category 2 – rare species

which are not endangered but occur in such low numbers or in such a restrictedand specific area that

they can go extinct rapidly; a special state legilsative protection is necessary. In the new Latvian Red

Data Book (Andrušaitis 2000) the bear is included in Category 3 (according to the IUCN system) with the

same definition as in the former Category 2.

Also in the Red Data Book of the Baltic region (Ingelög et al. 1993) the bear is included in Category 3 for

Latvia. The Baltic population of the brown bear on the whole can be regarded as “of least concern”

17


(Linnell et al. 2008). Also on the global scale, the species is not endangered (Least Concern - The IUCN

Red List of Threatened Species, 2008)

1.5. Current research and monitoring in Latvia and abroad

Bear monitoring in Latvia started in the 1970s, when collecting data for the first issue of the

Latvian Red Data Book (Andrušaitis 1985). The main role here was played by zoologist J. Lipsbergs

(Pilāts, Ozoliņš 2003).

The best monitoring traditions and experiences are in the countries that have kept their bear

populations until nowadays or successfully restored them – Russia, Northern Europe, in the Carpathians

and the Balkans (Mitchell-Jones et al. 1999; Zedrosser et al. 2001). On 16-17 May 2002, an international

workshop on monitoring systems on large carnivores was held in Helsinki. Carnivore experts from

Northern Europe – Finland, Sweden, Norway and the Baltics – participated in the workshop. In

Scandinavia, the following information is used for the bear monitoring: attacks on livestock and semidomestic

reindeer, occasional observations, harvested or unintentionally killed individuals, genetic

sample database, hunters’ observations, capture-recapture method and radio-telemetry. In Finland,

additional information comes from the so-called wildlife census triangles. This method is based on

registering all found tracks on a triangular route during snow conditions. Such triangles are located

throughout the country. It is possible to compare track indices (number of tracks per route km) for each

species both between years and regions. Information on the Russian bear population and monitoring

methods is summarised in the detailed monograph (Vaisfeld, Chestin 1993), while the most recent

information can be found in special periodic issues devoted to the assessment of hunting resources

(Gubarj 2007). For the future work in Latvia, it is important to know that in Russian Karelia, the

following parameters of the front paw’s print (cm) are used for determining the age structure of the

population: sub-adult cubs up to 1 year – 6-9, 1-2 year old cubs – 9.5-11.5, older than 2 years – ≥12. Also

in Estonia, bear population structure is determined by the footprints of the front paws. Information about

winter dens is an important part of the bear monitoring in Estonia (Lõhmus 2002). In Latvia, scientific

data analysis is not being done apart from one publication on the population status (Pilāts, Ozoliņš 2003).

Research and data collection on bears along the northern Latvian border took place in 2003-2005

within a PIN-Matra funded project “Integrated Wetland and Forest Management in the Transborder Area

of North Livonia” (Ozoliņš et al. 2005).

Public opinion on bears was studied and compared to the attitude towards the other two species of

large carnivores – lynx and wolves (Andersone and Ozoliņš 2004).

Lots of useful information is provided by the bear research and monitoring experience from

Austria (Proschek 2005, Rauer 2008). This is a country that is by ¼ bigger than Latvia (83,858km 2 ) and

where the bear population was also totally eradicated in the 19 th century. Some problems are similar to

those in Latvia. In Austria, no more than 15-20 bears were found in the last few years and they belong to

the so called Alps population (30-50 bears in total). In 2008, the population in Austria collapsed to only

two individuals. The first bear immigrated to Austria from Slovenia only in 1972. In the 1990s, WWF-

Austria arranged a re-introduction of 4 animals (from Slovenia and Croatia) of both sexes. These animals

were fitted with radio-collars and were closely monitored. These animals (3 of which were females) had

in total 31 offspring by 2008. Most litters had 3 cubs. Austria has a bear conservation plan. The

monitoring is carried out in several directions: registering direct observations and footprints, investigating

conflict situations, telemetry, DNA sampling. All these years, the state and the municipality budgets have

covered the expense of employing a “bear manager” Dr. Georgs Rauers. He found out that bears in

18


Austria “disappear” after reaching the age of 1-2 years. There have been some conflict situations during

the research time but only two “problem bears” had to be destroyed. Only one relatively firm case of

poaching was found. Potential motivation reasons for bear poaching are the wish to get a trophy, getting

rid of a competitor for ungulate hunting and mistakenly taking bear for a wild boar. The interaction

between bear conservation and game management interests is a very delicate issue in Austria as mass

media and a part of the society use the problem of bear killing as an argument against hunting in general.

In their turn, hunters and foresters are the main reporters that provide information for the monitoring.

Methods of bear monitoring are summarised in international publications (Linnell et al. 1998).

The majority of methods are elaborated and tested in North America. The most appropriate method for

Latvia would be registering females with cubs as it is done in Estonia (counting the cubs as well) (P.

Männil, pers.com.). In additions, they collect fresh scats and hairs (from hair traps) in Estonia. This

material is used for the DNA analysis in order to tell apart individual bears.

2. Reasons for changes in the species and its habitat

2.1. Factors affecting the population

IUCN’s Large Carnivore Initiative for Europe (LCIE) has formulated 4 main threats to the European

populations of the brown bear (www.lcie.org):

1. Some populations are too small and isolated for a long-term existence;

2. There is some concern that in the countries where bear hunting is legal, hunting quotas may be too

high to allow self-sustainable population;

3. Bears cause damage to livestock and conflict mitigation is not ensured;

4. The transport infrastructure fragments bear habitats and is an additional mortality factor.

5.

Influencing factors and their significance to Latvia are assessed in Table 2.

19


Brūno lāču populāciju ietekmējošie faktori Eiropā un to aktualitāte Latvijā*

Table 2.

Apdraudējums

Pagātnē

(2008)

1 2 3 4

Biotopu iznīcināšana vai degradēšana cilvēka darbības rezultātā:

Lauksaimniecība

Mežizstrāde

Infrastruktūras attīstība: rūpniecība

X ? X

Infrastruktūras attīstība:

apbūve

Infrastruktūras attīstība:

tūrisms/rekreācija

Infrastruktūras attīstība:

ceļu būve

Ieguve:

Likumīgas medības un ķeršana

Nelikumīga vajāšana:

X

X

X

Nogalināšana ar šaujamieročiem

Lamatas / cilpas

X X X

Indēšana

Transports:

Sadursmes uz autoceļiem un dzelzceļiem

Dabas katastrofas:

Vētras / plūdi

Meža ugunsgrēki

Lavīnas / nogruvumi

Izmaiņas vietējo sugu sastāvā:

Konkurenti

Laupījums / barības bāze

Slimības / parazīti

Iekšpopulāciju procesi:

Ierobežota izplatīšanās spēja

20


Nepietiekama vairošanās/atražošana

1

2. tabulas

turpinājums

2 3 4

Augsta mazuļu mirstība

Inbrīdings

Zems apdzīvotības blīvums

Nepareiza attiecība starp dzimumiem

Lēns pieaugums

X X X

Lielas skaita svārstības

Ierobežots areāls

Tieša traucēšana:

Atpūta / tūrisms

Pētniecība

X

Karš / civilie protesti

Transporta plūsma

Mežsaimniecība

Medības uz citām sugām

Citi iemesli:

Kritiski mazs indivīdu skaits

X

X X X

X X X

ª list of threats offered to the contacts is taken from the IUCN Red List threats authority file

apdraudējumu uzskaitījums un formulējums aizgūts no Pasaules dabas aizsardzības savienības Apdraudēto sugu komisijas

dokumentiem (link)

The fact that there are so few bears in Latvia and most of them belong to one sex are

probably the main limiting factors that does not allow for an optimisti prognosis for the bear

population in Latvia. Such a small isolated population of mainly males would be doomed to go

extinct without any drastic re-introduction efforts. However, considering that Latvia is on the

periphery of the Baltic bear popualtion of almost 7000 individuals (Linnell et al. 2008) most

relevant are those factors that prevent bears from staying in Latvia after coming here from

elsewhere. Intensive forestry, hunting, transport and building infrastructure are common factors

that threaten the existing bear populations in Europe and there is no doubt that these factors will

hinder bear population’s restoration in Latvia as well. Particularly worrying is the perspective that

Latvia as a transport transit country will develop its transport infrastructure significantly. It is

difficult to give a clear assessment of the impact of recreation and tourism development. Tourism

21


in Latvia is unlikely to cause habitat degradation or fragmentation as untouched nature and

environmental education are most likely to be the cornerstones of the future tourism in Latvia. A

special attention, however, should be paid when planning motorsport-related recreation sites. In

the future, more relevant could be direct disturbance by humans involved in outdoor sports,

recreation and mushroom- and berry-picking. As the bear number increases, it is likely that they

will be more often killed during hunting for other species, and not only due to mistakes but also

using human safety as an argument. Such situations are not uncommon in Estonia (P. Männil pers.

com.). A similar argument was tried recently by hunters in Latvia who tried to thus justify killing

a lynx outside the hunting season, though they received a severe fine.

2.2. Factors affecting the habitat

Already K. Grevė (1909) wrote that the main reason for the rapid decline of bears in the 1860s in

Livonia was not so much direct persecution by humans as introduction of modern forestry. Along with the

active forestry activities, the total forested area also decreased. Before WWII, only 25% of the Latvian

territory was forested (Matīss 1987, Priedītis 1999). Large forest massifs can be regarded as bear habitats

in Latvia, as locations of bear observations concentrate around the most forested parts of the country.

Both in the 1970s and nowadays, bears have been seen mainly in the east of Latvia. Their distribution is

at least partly related to distribution of continuous forest massifs (see Fig. 4 and 5). Low forest cover can

explain the absence of bears from the central part of Latgale (E Latvia). In Kurzeme (W Latvia) that in

terms of forest cover does not differ from Vidzeme (N Latvia) and Sēlija (left bank of the Rover Daugava

in the south), it was probably one (maximum 2) animals that was observed there during the 1980s. Data

by J. Lipsbergs mention two bears (a bigger one and a smaller one) in Vandzene forestry unit (1983) and

around Babīte (1984). In the early 1990s, these bears either left Kurzeme or died and re-appeared in that

region only in 2006. Therefore, much more important factor than the forest cover is where a particular

area is situated in western or eastern part of the country, i.e., in relation to the distance from the

distribution range core area to the north and east from the Latvian border. Besides, the forested area in

Latvia has been gradually increasing in the last 50 years (Matīss 1987, Priedītis 1999). Modern forestry

techniques ensure forest restoration after clear-cuts, therefore, modern forestry can be regarded as less of

a disturbance factor than clearing forests totally in the late 19 th - early 20 th centuries. Until we have more

precise date on the impact of the Latvian forest quality on bear distribution, there is no reason to believe

that bear habitats are endangered.

In several cases, bear presence was confirmed by the carcasses found in the forest. Carcasses of wild

animals are an important food source for bears in winter (those that were disturbed in the den and did not

hibernate) and spring. In Latvia, there are many animals species that can at least theoretically be bear

trophic competitors: other carnivores and ravens that also quickly consume carcasses of animals that died

during winter, wild boar that destroys anthills, consumes carrion, acorns and other important bear food

(Priednieks et al. 1989, Ozoliņš, Pilāts 1995, official census data of the State Forest Service). An increase

in the number of trophic competitors decreases environmental carrying capacity and can hinder settling of

immigrant bears in Latvia.

22


3. Current conservation of the species and its habitat

3.1. Legislation

National legislation:

In Latvia, according to the Law on the Conservation of Species and Biotopes (05.04.2000) and

Annex 1 of the Cabinet of Ministers’ Regulations No. 627 Amendments to the Regulations No. 396 “List

of the Specially Protected Species and the Specially Protected Species Whose Use is Limited” (Cabinet of

Ministers, 14.11.2000), bear is classified as a specially protected species. According to Clause 4

paragraph 3 of the Species and Habitat Protection Law and paragraph 40.1 of the Cabinet of Ministers’

Regulations No. 281 (24.04.2007.) “Regulations on preventive and reactive measures and the order in

which the damage to the environment is assessed and the costs of preventive, urgent and reactive measure

are calculated”, for killing or injuring a brown bear, 40 minimum monthly salaries should be paid for each

individual.

The Cabinet of Ministers’ Regulations No. 778 (22.11.2007.) “The order in which land users are

compensated for damages caused by specially protected non-game species and migrating species” ensure

that the damage caused to livestock or beehives by bears should be compensated.

International obligations:

Washington Convention – “Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild

Fauna and Flora (CITES)”. The bear is listed under Annex 2 as potentially threatened. This means that

international trade with this species is limited and may only occur under strict control.

Bern Convention – “Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats”.

The bear is listed under Annex 2. That means that countries that signed it (in Latvia – 01.05.1997) ensure

species protection by banning its exploitation.

EU Habitat Directive 92/43/EEC On conservation of natural habitats and wild fauna and flora

(Species and Habitats Directive). The bear is listed under Annex 2 (bear habitats have to be designated as

strictly protected areas) and Annex 4 (prohibition of exploitation). In addition, the brown bear mentioned

as a priority species. Upon joining the European Union, Latvia has to abide by several decision of the

European Parliament (Swenson et al. 2001).

European Council’s Regula No. Nr. 338/97 “On conservation of wild animal and plant species via

regulating their trade”. The bear is included in Annex A, which means that trading limitations are

essential for its conservation, and the regula has a very strict order how bears or their body parts can be

imported/exported to/from the European Community.

In 2008, EC accepted “Guidelines for large carnivore conservation plans at the population level”

(Linnell et al. 2008). It is not a legislative document signed by member states but a document providing

guidance and recommendations for achieving and maintaining favourable status of large carnivore

populations. Adherence to these guidelines will depend on the ability of member states to cooperate at the

international level and their willingness to coordinate their national interests with the species conservation

requirements including bear management.

23


3.2. Species and habitat conservation measures

In the 1970s, a nature sanctuary for brown bear conservation was established in the Smiltene forestry

unit (Valka district) (Tauriņš 1982, Andrušaitis 1985). Due its small area and isolation, it most liklely did

not provide signifcant input into bear habitat conservation. The current legislation does not provide for

special habitat protection measures for the species. In the latest edition of the Red Data Book, there is a

proposal to protect old growth forests (Andrušaitis 2000). However, the implementaiton of this

requirement at the legislative level is not realted to any specific bear conservation measures. There is

alsno no reason to state that insufficient habotat protection has had any influence on bear survival or

cretaed any direct obstacles to their immigration or settling in Latvia.

In 2001-2002, the inventory of specially protected nature areas was carried out within the so-called

EMERALD project, the aim of which was to find out whether the existing network of protected areas is in

accordance with the NATURA 2000 requirements of the EC Habitat Directive. During that inventory,

bear presence (at least temporary) was registered in 3 out of 236 areas. A few more areas reported bear

observations in the past. Only one of the existing 336 NATURA 2000 areas – Teiči nature reserve

(www.teici.gov.lv) – is big enough (19,649 ha, including about 15,000 ha of peat bogs) to ensure longterm

conservation of a few bears – a relatively undisturbed hibernation and feeding. The current bear

distribution and the related bear conservation aspects are relevant to the administration of the following

protected areas: Slītere National Park, Ziemeļvidzeme biosphere reserve, Teiči un Krustkalni nature

reserves. A successful initiative was started by the administration of the Ziemeļvidzeme biosphere reserve

in cooperation with UNDP – they distributed in their territory and other areas in Ziemeļvidzeme that are

inhabited by bears leaflets for the general public that explain how to behave if one meets a bear in the

wild (www.biosfera.gov.lv). Even though the total network of protected areas covers 11.9% of the

Latvian territory (i.e., more than 7000 km 2 ) and it improves the living conditions of bears inhabiting those

protected areas, this alone cannot guarantee a population increase in the future. Favourable conditions for

bear conservation should be maintained also outside the protected areas.

3.3. Species conservation plan in relation to other species and habitat conservation plans

Theoretically, brown bear conservation in Latvia is facilitated by any conservation measures

towards forest and peat bog habitats that happen on a sufficiently large scale in eastern Latvia. The most

visible projects are as follows: Restoration of the hydrological regime of the Teiči bog (Bergmanis et al.

2002), LIFE project proposal for the North Gauja valley, elaboration of the management plan for the

Gruzdova forests, PIN-Matra project „Integrated Wetland and Forest Management in the Trans-border

Area of North Livonia”, inventory of forest key habitats etc.

IUCN Bear specialist group and the International Bear Association (IBA) are the main

international organisations dealing with bear conservation in the world (Zedrosser et al. 2001). Besides,

there is a Large Carnivore Initiative for Europe (LCIE). This initiative was started in 1995 in Italy. It is

supported by WWF, its partners and individual experts from European countries. The aim of the initiative

is to create a wide cooperation network for large carnivore conservation, including governments,

international organisations, conventions’ councils, land owners and managers, scientists and general

public. Specifically, LCIE works to achieve co-existence of brown bears, lynx, wolves, wolverines and

humans in Europe nowadays and in the future.

In co-operation with the EC, the above-mentioned organisations have elaborated “Brown bear action

plan for Europe” (Swenson et al. 2001). This plan also includes measures relevant to Latvia as a result of

24


%

consultations with zoologist Valdis Pilāts. These tasks were taken into account when elaborating the

national species action plan.

Other species action plans that can have an impact on the bear conservation in Latvia are the Latvian

capercaillie action plan (Hofmanis, Strazds 2004) and the Latvian black stork action plan (Strazds 2005)

as both these plans include forestry ban in the relevant lek and breeding micro-sanctuaries. In relation to

the brown bear conservation, capercaillie conservation has a smaller impact if there are some biotechnical

habitat management measures at lek sites.

3.4. Risk analysis of implementation of the current Species conservation plan

In accordance with the criteria under paragraphs e) - i) of Clause 1 of the EC Habitat Directive

and Clause 7 of the Latvian Law on species and Habitat Protection, the current conservation status of the

brown bear in Latvia cannot be considered as favourable. However, this is not related to insufficient legal

protection or the lack of suitable habitats. For almost two hundred years, Latvia has been at the edge of

the species distribution range (Pilāts, Ozoliņš 2003). The probability of bear increase was foreseen

already in the 1970s-1980s (Tauriņš 1982). Although the most recent information presented in the

previous chapters does not exclude restoration of the bear distribution across the whole country, one

should consider that Latvia for a very long time did not have a functional and self-sustainable bear

population. At the same time, on the Baltic scale, the bear population status is assessed as favourable

(Linnell et al. 2008). Therefore, the measures discussed in this action plan are required mainly as a

preparation for the situation if the bear distribution range expands naturally. At the same time, it would be

unnecessary to carry out measures in order to artificially improve bear living conditions or attract

individuals from the neighbouring territories.

It is possible that restoration of the bear population in Latvia will be influenced by the political

relationships with the neighbouring countries. A fence being built in Belarus along the border with Latvia

and Lithuania could have a negative impact on the integrity of the Baltic bear population.

In 2001, with the financial support from WWF-Denmark, as study was carried out in Latvia

“Investigation of the public opinion about three large carnivore species in Latvia – brown bear (Ursus

arctos), wolf (Canis lupus) and lynx (Lynx lynx)” (Andersone, Ozoliņš 2004). The majority of

respondents thought that bear protection should be continued, 25% were in favour of bear control, 1%

supported extermination of bears while 5% did not have an opinion. The inhabitants of Riga and Zemgale

(S Latvia) were most positive towards bears while Vidzeme (N Latvia) and Kurzeme (W Latvia) had the

highest proportion of those who supported bear control. Also the majority of the hunters surveyed

(66.2%) (the readers of the hunting magazine MMD) supports bear protection. Young people are most

supportive towards bear protection (79.6%).

8. att. Ko darīt ar lāčiem Latvijā? (2001. gada aptauja)

100

80

60

40

20

0

Rīga Vidzeme Zemgale Latgale Kurzeme MMD lasītāji

Aizsargāt

Regulēt

Iznīcināt

Nezinu

25


%

In 2005, a repeated public opinion survey was carried out (Jaunbirze 2006). The survey showed that

respondents with a higher level of education and young people are more positive towards bear protection

(9. att.).

5. att. Atbilde uz jautājumu „Ko darīt ar lāčiem jūsu dzīvesvietas tuvumā?” atkarībā

no aptaujāto izglītības (2005. gada aptauja).

100.0

90.0

80.0

70.0

60.0

50.0

40.0

30.0

20.0

10.0

0.0

Pasākumi nav

nepieciešami

Lācis

Jāpārvieto uz citu

vietu

Nezinu Jāaizbaida prom Jānošauj

Pamatskola

Vidusskola

Arodskola

Bakalaurs

Maģ./Dr

Despite a relatively high public support, the choice of bear conservation startegy and tasks in

Latvia is related to the following problems:








The lack of hard evidence of why the bear population in Latvia is not establishing. The amount

of evidence depends on the number of bears – as the bear number increases, the level of

knowledge would increase as well.

If the bear number increases, economic losses and fear-caused conflicts will become an

inevitable problem.

Bear living conditions can be improved only by radical measures that would be related to

unpopular measures with significant restrictions and in some cases a total ban of economic

(forestry) activities in large areas of forests.

At present, any conservation measures are of theoretical or experimental nature and there is no

guarantee that it will result in an increased bear number in Latvia.

In case if the bear population grows, it would be necessary to include any relevant issues in the

hunting legislation. Users of hunting rights are most closely related to the species monitoring,

implementation of species and habitat conservation as well as conflict solving.

There is a certain risk that due to the bear conservation issues in Latvia, a conflict between

hunting supporters and anti-hunting campaigners can increase.

The general public can become more intolerant towards species protection if the education level

decreases and the average age of people increases.

4. Goals and tasks of the species conservation plan

The goal of the bear action plan is to ensure natural processes within the joint brown bear population

shared by the Baltic States and the western part of Russia, at the same time not setting any specific

deadlines to increase the bear distribution range in Latvia or to etsablish a self-sustainable local bear

26


population. In other words, Latvia should not become an obstacle for brown bear dispersal or fluctuations

of the distribution range related to the population dynamics within the Baltic bear population.

To achieve the above-mentioned goal, it is necessary to implement the following tasks:






To inform politicians, legislative bodies, scientists and other crucial stakeholders about the most

important brown bear’s habitat requirements. To emphasise the importance of hibernation

conditions for attracting resident bears.

To timely disperse objective information on bears and bear-related events in mass media,

preventing rumours and exaggerations.

To follow trends in the public opinion in relation to the brown bear population status and the

frequency of interest conflicts.

To establish and maintain a system for registering and centralised analysis of the facts in order to

monitor the bear population status and obtain information for the necessary conservation

measures.

To elaborate and stick to a certain action protocol in those cases when conflict risk reduction is

required.

The following criteria can be used to monitor the achievement of the goal:

The Baltic brown bear population’s distribution range is not being fragmented or reduced;

The areas without bear presence are decreasing;

There are no areas with regular bear-caused conflicts;

The public appreciates the presence of bears in the wild, does not regard the bear as an unwanted

competitor, threat or obstacle for economic activities, is positive towards a chance to see the evidence of

bear presence and interested to receive information on the bear lifestyle and population status;

The bear’s function in the ecosystem (feeding, choice of hibernation sites, dispersal possibilities) as as

natural as possible.

5. Species and habitat conservation measures

5.1. Legislation and nature conservation policy

The legislative status up to date ensures species conservation requirements. No suggestions.

5.2. Species conservation measures

Summarising the available data on species biology and ecology, we can conclude that the bear

conservation status in Latvia could be improved by the following measures (keeping in mind that these

are only recommendations that do not aim to initiate legislative changes at this stage):

5.2.1 To decrease direct disturbance in the period when bears are looking for a den as well as during

the hibernation period (1 October – 31 March). This can be achieved if drive hunts are not organised.

Also, there should be a minimum distance between sites where forestry activities are taking place

simultaneously and timber transportation should be banned during the night. These measures would be

useful in forestry units along the border with Estonia, Russia and Belarus starting with bear observation

27


sites and later in the whole border area. Introduction of these measures should be done based on an

agreement with holders of hunting rights and forest owners.

5.2.2. In the areas of bear occurrence, the State Forest Service, when issuing wild boar licences for

individual hunts, should warn hunters about the chance of encountering a bear as well as to increase

control in these hunting grounds doing random checks in places where hunters gather.

5.2.3. As bear hunting is legal in the neighbouring countries (Russia and Estonia), an increased

control is recommended over the legitimacy of hunting trophies’ import from these countries. Hunters

should have a possibility within a certain timeframe to declare bear trophies they possess from the past,

indicating trophy’s origin and obtaining an appropriate permit.

5.2.4. An efficient system for eliminating dangerous bears should be established. The decision on the

level of threat posed by an individual animal should be taken by the same specialist group or an

individual expert regardless of the site and nature of the conflict. These specialists should be ready to take

full responsibility for their decision in front of the government institutions and the general public.

5.3. Habitat conservation measures

The brown bear is a very appropriate species whose environmental requirments can be used when

planning at the landscape level and the so called green corridors (crossing points) when reconstructing

road infrastructure. Latvan experts can find lots of theoretical and practical examples from Southern and

Central Europe which can be critically asssessed as to their suitability for the Latvian conditions (Hlaváč,

Andĕl 2002, Kryštufek et al. 2003, Jedrzejewski et al. 2004). The first Latvian experience comes from

elaboration of the landscape ecological plan of Ziemeļvidzeme biosphere reserve in 2007 (see

www.biosfera.gov.lv), which should be continued in the rest of Latvia. When organising seminars and

discussions on large carnivore conservation issues, the Latvian large carnivore experts should invite

representatives from the Ministry of Regional Development and Local Government and other relevant

planning institutions.

5.4. Species research and monitoring

Database on bear occurrence.

Genetic studies in cooperation with Estonia.

Continuing public opinion surveys using the questionnaire method.

5.5. Awareness-raising and education

To continue involving hunters into large carnivore (wolf, lynx) monitoring which will improve

contacts and information exchange with the large carnivore experts also on brown bear conservation

issues.

Livestock owners and bee-keepers should be informed about preventive measures against bear attacks

as well as about the risks increasing the probability of such attacks.

Information on bears should be spread among schoolchildren.

28


5.6. Review of the implementation table

Measure (in the order of

priority)

1. Population status

monitoring.

2. To promote experience from

other countries regarding

prevention of bear attacks on

beehives and livestock

3. Education events for

schoolchildren regarding

brown bears and their

conservation in Latvia

4. Anonymous survey of

hunters about bar numbers and

unregistered cases of bear

mortality

5. Seminars (for experts and

representatives of relevant

fields) on bear conservation

news in Latvia

6. Spreading research results

and public education work

7. To agree on the procedure

how to solve situations in

relation to “problem bears” and

bears that are killed or injured

illegally

Who is responsible

Implemen

tation

time

LSFRI „Silava”? 10

workdays

every year

Latvian Natural History

Museum, administration of

specially protected areas

Latvian Natural History

Museum, State Forest

Service

LSFRI „Silava”?

MSc thesis in the

University of Latvia or the

Latvian Agricultural

University

Latvian Theriological

Society

Latvian Hunters

Association,

State Forest Service,

Latvian Theriological

Society

Latvian Natural History

Museum

Continuou

sly

Cost

estimate

s LVL

500 per

year

2009. - -

2012. 3000 ?

Once a

year

during the

general

meeting of

the LTS

Continuou

sly,

During the

Annul

Forest

Days

events

Potential

funding

source

Funds for

scientific

research

- Checking

damage

locations, mass

media.

- -

- Mass media

Nature Protection Board 2010. - -

29


8. Telemetry project with the

aim to find out the size of the

home range and its use by

Latvian bears

LSFRI „Silava”,

University of Latvia

? Within

universit

y and

research

projects.

Science

Council’s

grants

The plan’s implementation analysis and task updating to be done in 2014.

6. Implementation of the species conservation plan

In order to implement measures prescribed by this plan, there is no need to establish or to reorganise

any of the existing institutions. The current system should be supported and continued where

several governmental and non-governmental organisations cooperate such as:

Forest Resource Department of the Ministry of Agriculture;

State Forest Service;

Department of Nature Protection of the Ministry of Environment;

Nature Protection Board;

State Environmental Service;

Latvian State Forestry Research Institute „Silava”;

University of Latvia;

Administrations of Gauja National Park, Ķemeri National Park, Slītere National Park, Rāzna National

Park, Teiči Nature Reserve and North Vidzeme Biosphere reserve;

Stock company „Latvian State Forests”

Latvian Natural History Museum;

Latvian Hunters Association;

Latvian Theriological Society;

Latvian Fund for Nature;

WWF Latvia

Etc.

Several measures planned in 2003 are not implemented or only partly implemented (3. tab.).

30


The results of the implementation of measures planned in 2003

Table 3.

Measure

A group of bear experts established

Amendments to the Cabinet of

Ministers’ Regulations on damage

compensation

Elaboration and implementation of the

monitoring system (establishment of a

centralised database)

Who is

responsible

National

representative in

the IUCN bear

specialist group

Ministry of

Environment

Experts (to be

clarified during

the plan’s

implementation

discussions)

Cost

estimates

(Ls)

500

(costs of a

seminar)

Potential funding

source

Environmental

Fund

Implementa

tion

partly, in the

territory of

the Ziemeļ -

vidzeme

Biosphere

reserve

- - Done

1000

Per year

? partly, only

within

Natura 2000

monitoring

Publicity in mass media Experts - - Done

To renew cooperation with the border

guards regarding information on bears

crossing the border

Experts - - Partly

To warn hunting leaders about bear

presence in their hunting grounds

Cooperation with hunters and forest

owners in the areas where bear occur

regularly.

To translate into Latvian and publish a

book by H. Kruuk (2002)

State Forest

Service

- - Partly

Experts - - Partly, only

in case of

conflicts or

offences

? 10 000? Environmental

Fund

Not done

due to the

lack of

funding

To carry out a sociological study on

whether the society is ready to limit

forest-related management for bear

conservation.

To Review plan’s goals and tasks after 5

years

Experts 3000 ? Not done,

due to the

lack of

funding and

lack of

interested

contractors

Experts 1000 Nature Protection Done

Board

31


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Appendices

Terminu skaidrojums

areāls – sugas izplatības rajons

biotops – šajā tekstā lietots gan kā lāčiem nepieciešamo apstākļu kopums teritorijā, gan kā

sinonīms vārdam ekosistēma

boreālie meži – pēcledus laikmetā veidojušies meži, kuru sastāvā dominē skuju koki

dzimuma dimorfisms – raksturīgas atšķirības starp vienas sugas vienāda vecuma indivīdiem

IUCN – Pasaules dabas un dabas resursu aizsardzības organizācija

LCIE – Eiropas lielo plēsēju aizsardzības iniciatīva (ekspertu grupa IUCN SSC sastāvā)

lielie plēsēji – Latvijā vilki, lūši, brūnie lāči, Eiropā arī tiņi jeb āmrijas, dažkārt lielajiem plēsējiem

pieskaita arī ūdrus

monitorings – atkārtoti regulāri novērojumi vai pētījumi pēc noteiktas metodikas ar mērķi

noskaidrot procesus dabā

populācija – šajā tekstā indivīdu kopums attiecīgajā teritorijā

SSC – Sugu izdzīvošanas komisija (Pasaules aizsardzības savienības IUCN struktūrvienība)

telemetrija – datu par dzīvnieka dabisko uzvedību pārraidīšana un uztveršana no attāluma

35

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