In the early hours of June 4, 2014, French photographer Eric Poussin observed and videotaped a bear and three wolves in a tense competition for possession of a dead deer in an area of the Somiedo Nature Park. These images, donated by Eric Poussin to the Oso Pardo Foundation (FOP), graphically reflect for the first time in the Cantabrian Mountains the competitive relationship between the two large carnivores of our mountains in the face of a hunted animal or carrion. The deer, which was probably taken by the three wolves in the early hours of the night, was contested by a bear, which fed on it while the wolves watched and tried to retrieve their kill. The bear – with symptoms of alopecia, although apparently in good physical condition – covered the deer’s carcass with earth and tried to drive the wolves away, but as soon as it withdrew with the first light of day, the wolves uncovered and ate their prey. Hours later, late in the morning, the carrion birds made an appearance, first the crows and then about twenty griffon vultures. Surprisingly, a black vulture also appeared, a Mediterranean species with an occasional presence in the Cantabrian Mountains. An Egyptian vulture also attended the banquet. In a short time, the vultures finished with the remains of the deer, reflecting the important work they do to eliminate carrion in the field.

Wolves and bears coexist in large areas of Eurasia and America, and their relationships are usually peaceful. When they meet they usually pass by, although showing mutual surveillance that has some justification because aggressive interactions have been observed on occasions. In North America, some specific cases of attacks with death have been described, both from bears to wolves and from wolves to bears. In the Cantabrian Mountains, the FOP teams have observed encounters between bears and wolves on several occasions. Some of the encounters have occurred around a food source, such as carrion visited successively by both carnivores. Several times we have witnessed interactions between bears with cubs and wolves, which always ended with the bear calm but alert and the wolves moving away from the area. And on two occasions we have observed how an adult wolf harassed an also adult bear to drive it away from the place where the cubs were hiding.

The coexistence of two large carnivores and the presence of a complete community of carrion birds is an excellent symptom of the quality of the ecosystems of the Somiedo Nature Park and the rich biodiversity it houses.

Source: Oso Pardo Foundation

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