Marsican Brown Bear:
The best time has come to see the largest carnivorous of our forests, The Marsican Brown Bear. To distinguish from brown's bear of the center of Europe, especially for the smallest dimensions, our beloved plantigrade is a species considered at high risk of extinction. The number of Marsican Brown Bear specimens in the central Apennines is estimated at around 45-55 individuals. The biggest limits to the recovery of this small population to consider it as "out of danger" are the fragmentation of the habitat due to the great human presence and the direct and indirect poaching.
In autumn, bears leave the depths and the protection of yellowed forests to stay steadily near the major sources of food. So we can observe them grazing in high altitudes near bushes and stony ground where they eat some berries from the bushes and insects that lie under the rocks. More easily to observe, instead, those Marsican Brown Bears more abituated to human presence that can be spotted inside the cultivated low-altitude orchards, within the lands of our natural parks. Frequently, specimens have been spotted on fruit trees by performing in real acrobatism, in fact not everyone knows that the bear is an extraordinary tree climber, always looking for fruits or insects on the highest branches!
From a biological and ethological point of view, this behavior is due to a phase of the life cycle of the plantigrad called "hyperphagia" that pushes the bear to store enough fat reserves to overcome the long winter season. It is during this time that its metabolism and therefore its activity will be reduced to the minimum in a state of hibernation that will allow it to handle the energy reserves. The softening of temperatures in the spring will cause it to awake from that state of torpor and then return to its perennial search for food.
I like to consider the bear not the king of the forest, but rather its spirit. Walking in a forest in the lands of the Marsican Brown Bear means to explore a wonderful and healthy environment, where everything has been working in the right way for millennia.
Wandering for these places makes us feel like guests in a place that belongs to nature and where only the nature has the right to arrange things properly. Silently, with the attitude of those who are entering a sacred ground, everyone who walks these trails should be aware that even if you can't see anything this does not mean that the forest is looking at you! So be careful of your behavior to avoid any risk or dangerous situation..
It may happen that you'll wait for a very long time without seeing anything, staring at the sunset after a challenging hike, hoping to see the big and dark shape of the bear get out the trees like a ghost (usually they are really silent in ther roams).. most of the times in vain. These long and unsuccessful hides spent in the cold and in uncomfortable positions will bring you to your limit of endurance.
You will be almost desperate and angry because you will not understand if you have wrong place, period or have done too much noise.
But suddenly, one day you will experience the encounter so much sought after, and then all the labors and delusions will be rewarded with the most beautiful of the visions: a large shadow comes from the depths of the beech tree, overlaid by the red tones of the vault of the forest. In a moment a thrill runs behind yours back.
At least something happens, a swish in the bushes and a profound and constant breath: it's him! A wonderful Marsican Brown Bear just a few tens of meters in front of you. Suddenly the reverential fright of this mighty beast leaves room to the timeless expression of wonder!
A second shadow, this time much smaller and uncertain, is coming out of the trees. A puppy follows her mother, who guides him to a wild pear tree where they will gather some fruits. Their trend is now awkward and at times fun. The bear dangles towards the bottom of the valley, at times by glancing at the little one and sometimes sniffing air. The puppy instead cuts off with the curiosity of newborns to study anything that moves, climbing on several shrubs and stumbling several times, it's really a show!
Their mantles are polished, the fat layer is good and the hair is thick. They look to be in a great condition for the approaching great cold of the Apennine winter season. We continue watching for a few minutes for their journey in the autumn colors until a wind blowing brings to the mother-bear a scent of our presence, probably. The puppy does not understand what this means, but the experience of the mother drives them quickly back at the edge of the forest to disappear into the thick foliage.
The disappointment at the end of this moment is soon ruled out by the realization that we finally saw the spirit of the forests, and in the best of ways. Now our thoughts will go to the little one who is about to face the winter season, it will not be easy, but we will cheer in the hope of seeing him again during spring time! That's what is like go out with our wildlife watching guides in the Abruzzo National Park!!