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European brown bear

The European brown bear (Ursus arctos arctos) can be found in reasonable concentration in north-west Europe, from the Ural Mountains west to Finnmark, and in the Baltic States. The bears exist further south in eastern Europe, though in smaller numbers where human populations are higher. The highest concentration is in the Carpathian Mountains, in the Transylvanian region of Romania, where it is higher than in Denali National Park, in Alaska. The extent of this population is due largely to serendipity in that former dictator Ceaucescu was keen on bear hunting and prohibited anyone other than himself from engaging in it. There are brown bears in northern Italy, concentrated in the area of Abruzzo National Park, the Balkan States and in the Pyrenees. The isolated nature of these populations, particularly the latter, and the attendant genetic impoverishment, is a threat to them. Historically, brown bears were widespread in Europe, as is evidenced by the position of the bear in many European cultures where they no longer exist in reality. As the human population in Europe grew, so the range of the bear decreased, predictably, inexorably, and in a way that North Americans would do well to consider in relation to their own continent today.

The European brown bear resembles an interior North American grizzly bear in conformation and size, though in general it may be slightly smaller, and it shares much of its biology. The brown bear is widespread east of the Urals throughout Asiatic Russia and Siberia to the Pacific coast, where it is indistinguishable from the Alaskan coastal brown (grizzly) bear. Brown bear populations in the Balkans and the Caucasus, and across Central Asia and in Japan attest to its status as a truly global species. In the modern world, however, with it's burgeoning human population demanding ever more bear habitat for its own ends, the status of many of these populations is weak and in recession, and for some, if present trends do not change, they will soon cease to exist.

In the wilderness is the salvation of the world.

Henry David Thoreau

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