LIFE OSO COUREL - Actions to favour cantabrian brown bear expansion to new territories in Serra do Courel (Galicia, Spain).

LIFE16 NAT/ES/000573

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Contact details:

Contact person: Guillermo Palomero
Tel: 942234900
Fax: 942235048
Email: fop@fundacionosopardo.org

Project description:


Thanks to previous LIFE projects, the conservation status of the Cantabrian brown bear (Ursus arctos) has significantly improved in the north of Spain. The species has gone from being in decline and at risk of disappearing in the mid-1990s, to the current situation where two population nuclei are increasing in size and connectivity. However, the population is still far from achieving a favourable conservation status under the Habitats Directive.

The Natura 2000 network site in the Serra do Courel (Lugo, Galicia) is of strategic interest for the expansion of the Cantabria brown bear population. Some individuals have recently moved there, highlighting its potential for establishing a permanent bear presence. However, no conservation actions targeting the species or its habitat have been carried out at this site, and no work has been undertaken with local residents or farmers focusing on bear-human coexistence. In this area of isolated, mountain agricultural communities, characterised by activities such as small-scale farming, beekeeping and hunting, if coexistence is not adequately addressed it is feared conflicts could arise in the future.


The objective of the LIFE OSO COUREL project is to improve the long-term viability of the Cantabrian brown bear population, by promoting its south-westward expansion and its permanent presence in the Serra do Courel (Galicia). Both numerical and spatial increases are required to enable the brown bear population to reach a favourable conservation status in the long term.

Specific project objectives are to:

  • Encourage the permanent settlement of brown bears in the Serra do Courel, by improving food sources availability and guaranteeing connectivity between high quality habitats, resulting in an increase in bear numbers;
  • Guarantee connectivity between the main reproductive nucleus (the western Cantabrian subpopulation) and the Serra do Courel, through improvement and defragmentation actions in areas surrounding the A6 highway and other infrastructure, so that more brown bears and other large mammals cross to the south of the A6;
  • Prevent and solve potential conflicts between bears and local communities, such as protecting beehives against bear attacks; and
  • Increase awareness and knowledge of local residents and stakeholders of the importance of a continued and growing bear population, with increased support for bear conservation actions.
  • Expected results: The LIFE OSO COUREL project will contribute to an expansion in the range, and improve the overall conservation status, of the Cantabrian brown bear population through:

  • Improved connectivity and habitat quality in the most suitable areas for brown bear;
  • Increased presence of bears in the Serra do Courel;
  • Local people and stakeholders better informed and more aware of solutions to bear-human conflicts; and
  • Greater social acceptance of bears.
  • Specific quantifiable results will include:

  • 100 000 native trees planted to provide connectivity and food in woodlands on a total surface area of 100 ha, strategically distributed in the most suitable areas for the bears (95 ha planted by a team of local contractors and 5 ha by volunteers);
  • 15 ha of abandoned pastures purchased, which will be planted with trees to improve habitat quality;
  • Improved vegetation coverage around the A6 highway and other infrastructure by planting 1 400 trees and 5 600 shrubs on 7 ha, to encourage bears and other large mammals cross using existing green-passes;
  • 100 hunting sites (c. 40 ha) cleared to improve visibility and reduce risk of bear mortality and raised awareness among local hunters;
  • Protected beehives in the whole project area thanks to electric fences and the purchase and restoration of five old stone walls/structures for beehive protection;
  • Intervention team trained to help avoid/avert conflicts;
  • Information and awareness-raising actions implemented; and
  • 85 ha of land managed under land stewardship agreements with private owners, and many other cooperation agreements with municipalities and other organisations.



Environmental issues addressed:


Biodiversity issues - Ecological coherence
Species - Mammals


agroforestry‚  animal corridor‚  animal damage‚  monitoring‚  mountainous area

Target species

 Ursus arctos     

Natura 2000 sites

SCI ES1120001 Ancares - Courel



Coordinator Fundacin Oso Pardo
Type of organisation NGO-Foundation
Description The Fundación Oso Pardo is a non-governmental organisation, established in 1992 with the aim of contributing to the conservation of the Cantabrian brown bear (Ursus arctos). The brown bear foundation is improving knowledge of this endangered large carnivore, its habitat and cultural context, and implementing practical actions to enhance its population size and range in northern Spain and other areas where populations are threatened, such as the Pyrenees.
Partners ASOCIACIÓN GALEGA DE CUSTODIA DO TERRITORIO, Spain XUNTA DE GALICIA (Dirección Xeral de Conservación da Natureza), Spain


Project reference LIFE16 NAT/ES/000573
Duration 01-JUL-2017 to 30-APR -2021
Total budget 1,640,000.00 €
EU contribution 1,230,000.00 €
Project location Galicia(España)


Read more:

Project web site Project's website


Project description   Environmental issues   Beneficiaries   Administrative data   Read more   Print   PDF version