Bear populations have grown over past 10 years in Latvia

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The monitoring data for 2021 shows that there are around 60-70 bears living in Latvia. In the last three years, there have been signs that bears are also mating in Latvia, mostly in the border area of Estonia, Russia and Belarus, said Latvian State Forest Science researcher Jānis Ozoliņš on Latvian Radio September 1.

Each year, the National Institute of Forest Science "Silava" and the Nature Conservation Agency carry out bear monitoring. Its methods include both the collection and analysis of genetic materials, DNA-containing samples, data from cameras, and the case where bears are filmed by hunters or the public.

“The 2021 results show that the minimum number of individuals staying here is between 60 and 70, perhaps more. There are both bear moms with cubs, but mostly males, of course,” Ozoliņš said.

The researcher said that the number of bear populations in Latvia has increased significantly over the past 10 years.

"In 2009, we researchers ourselves said that in Latvia bears were not mating yet, or at least there was no evidence that they would reproduce. For some three years now, we have such that bears are born in Latvia, and those who have been born here are most likely to stay here for life," he said.

There are various reasons for population growth in Latvia: both a bear-friendly environment and a hunting ban.

Ozoliņš said that the greatest chance of encountering a bear is in the border area with Estonia, Russia, and Belarus. 

"If you really know there's a high probability of seeing a bear in a region, maybe you don't go in berries and mushrooms alone. Just go in pairs, behave normally, as you do in the woods, call each other once in a while. Maybe don't eat bread too openly on the stump - what if suddenly someone else wants it? There are almost no cases in Europe that two people would have been attacked by a bear at the same time," Ozoliņš said.


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