A team of environmental agents has located the bodies of a female brown bear and her two cubs at the bottom of a 33-meter (108ft) crevice in the mountains of Palencia, in northern Spain.
Last June, a video captured images of a female – believed to be the same animal – fighting with a male to protect one of her cubs. The male died in the confrontation and the wounded female fled with her offspring.
Environmental agents followed their trail and began to leave food and water in the cave system where they took refuge after the fight.
The bodies have been taken to the Wild Animal Recovery Center in Burgos to determine the cause of death and to confirm that the young bears were the offspring of this adult.
On June 5, mountaineers hiking in the area witnessed and recorded a fight between two adult bears. The male, following a common practice of trying to kill the offspring of the females to bring them back into heat, attempted to kill one of the cubs.
The mother fought back and, in the struggle, the male ended up falling off a steep cliff and did not survive the fall. The female and her cubs took refuge in the cave system, where their bodies have now been found. Experts from the regional government of Castilla y León said the bear may have suffered serious injuries during the fight, judging by the blood that showed up in the area.
The bears took refuge in a very inaccessible spot and during this time human teams have only been able to provide them with food and water. The cave system is located in a mountainous area cut by steep gorges in the Cordillera Cantábrica range of northern Spain, which has become one of the main habitats of brown bears, a protected species that has increased its population in recent years.
The president of the Brown Bear Foundation, Guillermo Palomero, said that the outcome, though tragic, falls within “things that happen in nature.” The specimen was already badly wounded and when it entered the limestone cave system, full of holes “like a Gruyère cheese,” she very likely ended up falling into one of the chasms while its cubs shared the same fate.