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Distribution and abundance


       pic 86

pic 87

From the Brown Bear Conservation
Action Plan for Europe (Swenson et al. 1998)

Data from the State Environmental Monitoring
by General Inspectorate of Environmental Protection



In historical times, the brown bear occurred in all Poland. Preserved by law as a royal game animal, only kings and nobles could hunt bears. However, the species was persecuted at every opportunity in ruthless ways. In the 18th century, bears were perceived as a pest and special traps were set to kill them. They consisted of holes in the ground with sharp poles on the bottom, often located under trees with bee-hives in the forest. The bears were also killed for their meat, fat and pelts, which were highly valuable in the context of chronic poverty of that period. Hunting and habitat degradation caused the gradual disappearance of the species in most parts of the country. From the 16th century onwards, its destruction became increasingly intensive. The species was soon confined to the Carpathians, and by the end of World War I, only few bears were left in the country. The last refuge of the Polish lowland was Bialowieza Forest, where the last bears were shot under the Russian rule in the end of 19th century. After World War II, the number of bears within the new borders of Poland was estimated at 10-14; they persisted only in the Tatra and Bieszczady mountains. That number remained stable until the 60s, when the population of brown bears slowly started to recover. The highest increase of bear numbers took place in the Bieszczady mountains, where large areas became virtually depopulated as a consequence of the forced deportation of southeastern Poland’s Ukrainians in 1947.

Currently, the number of bears in the Polish Carpathians is roughly estimated on 100-120 individuals (although it should be noted that it has never been assessed reliably). The Polish population represents the northwestern range of the distribution of the Carpathian population. The Carpathian population includes the brown bears in Slovakia, Poland, Ukraine and Romania and it has been estimated in c.a. 8,000 bears. There are five main bear refuges in Poland, all of them are located in the Carpathian Mountains: the Bieszczady Mts, the Tatra Mts, the Beskid Niski Mts, the Beskid Zywiecki Mts, the Beskid Sadecki Mts and the Gorce Mts. For the bear population in Poland the most valuable area are the Bieszczady mountains, which are home for more than 70% of the population.











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