By the Minister of Environment
Precept No. .
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
LATVIAN SUMMARY .................…………….………………………………………..
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 ………………………………………
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
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.
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.
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.
Uzturēt monitoringa sistēmu, lai iegūtu zināšanas par populācijas stāvokli un aizsardzībai turpmāk
Sekot sabiedriskās domas tendencēm saistībā ar lāču populācijas stāvokli un interešu konfliktu
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
To maintain the monitoring system in order to obtain data on the population status an necessary
To follow trends in public opinion in relation to the brown bear population status and the frequency of
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
equirements that make the existing activities and territory uses impossible, thus creating a negative
attitude towards species renovation in Latvia.
To maintain an electronic database on bear distribution that could be updated by both professionals and
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.
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.
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).
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.
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).
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
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,
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).
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
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.
79 81 80 79
79 79 72 79 79
80 78 79
90 79 79 79
79 77 79
76 78 79 79 77 77
92 84 82
89 85 84
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. 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
Previous bear observations
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.
Brown bear population status in Latvia in comparison to the neighbouring countries.
Estonia Latvia Lithuania Pskov Belarus
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
Forest cover (%) 45 46* 30 >35 34
500 10-15 0 1100 50-70
Number of bears 20-30 - - 23 -
harvested per year
Hunting season 01.08.-31.10. - - 01.08.-28.02. -
Estimate basis Females with
* In 2008, it was 50.2% (according to the Forest Register data)
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”
(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
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.
Influencing factors and their significance to Latvia are assessed in Table 2.
Brūno lāču populāciju ietekmējošie faktori Eiropā un to aktualitāte Latvijā*
1 2 3 4
Biotopu iznīcināšana vai degradēšana cilvēka darbības rezultātā:
Infrastruktūras attīstība: rūpniecība
X ? X
Likumīgas medības un ķeršana
Nogalināšana ar šaujamieročiem
Lamatas / cilpas
X X X
Sadursmes uz autoceļiem un dzelzceļiem
Vētras / plūdi
Lavīnas / nogruvumi
Izmaiņas vietējo sugu sastāvā:
Laupījums / barības bāze
Slimības / parazīti
Ierobežota izplatīšanās spēja
2 3 4
Augsta mazuļu mirstība
Zems apdzīvotības blīvums
Nepareiza attiecība starp dzimumiem
X X X
Lielas skaita svārstības
Atpūta / tūrisms
Karš / civilie protesti
Medības uz citām sugām
Kritiski mazs indivīdu skaits
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
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
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.
3. Current conservation of the species and its habitat
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
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.
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.
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
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)
Rīga Vidzeme Zemgale Latgale Kurzeme MMD lasītāji
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
5. att. Atbilde uz jautājumu „Ko darīt ar lāčiem jūsu dzīvesvietas tuvumā?” atkarībā
no aptaujāto izglītības (2005. gada aptauja).
Jāpārvieto uz citu
Nezinu Jāaizbaida prom Jānošauj
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
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
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
To elaborate and stick to a certain action protocol in those cases when conflict risk reduction is
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
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
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
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.
5.6. Review of the implementation table
Measure (in the order of
1. Population status
2. To promote experience from
other countries regarding
prevention of bear attacks on
beehives and livestock
3. Education events for
brown bears and their
conservation in Latvia
4. Anonymous survey of
hunters about bar numbers and
unregistered cases of bear
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
Who is responsible
LSFRI „Silava”? 10
Latvian Natural History
Museum, administration of
specially protected areas
Latvian Natural History
Museum, State Forest
MSc thesis in the
University of Latvia or the
State Forest Service,
Latvian Natural History
2009. - -
2012. 3000 ?
- Mass media
Nature Protection Board 2010. - -
8. Telemetry project with the
aim to find out the size of the
home range and its use by
University of Latvia
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;
Several measures planned in 2003 are not implemented or only partly implemented (3. tab.).
The results of the implementation of measures planned in 2003
A group of bear experts established
Amendments to the Cabinet of
Ministers’ Regulations on damage
Elaboration and implementation of the
monitoring system (establishment of a
the IUCN bear
Experts (to be
(costs of a
partly, in the
the Ziemeļ -
- - Done
? partly, only
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
To translate into Latvian and publish a
book by H. Kruuk (2002)
- - Partly
Experts - - Partly, only
in case of
? 10 000? Environmental
due to the
To carry out a sociological study on
whether the society is ready to limit
forest-related management for bear
To Review plan’s goals and tasks after 5
Experts 3000 ? Not done,
due to the
Experts 1000 Nature Protection Done
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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