Rare lynx sightings in northern Italy excite naturalists

Two rare sightings of a lynx in the autonomous northern Italian province of Trentino in August and September have cheered nature lovers, who had feared for its survival.

Rare lynx sightings in northern Italy excite naturalists
The Eurasian lynx. Photo: dogrando/Flickr

The elusive wild cat, named B-132, was first sighted approximately ten years ago and is believed to be the only member of its species alive in the province today, reports La Stampa.

Lynxes, which can coexist peacefully with humans, were a common sight in Italy up until the late 19th century, when they were driven from the country by hunters as they were considered a threat to livestock – a fate also met by other large carnivores including bears and wolves.

Recent conservation efforts have aimed at reintroducing bears into the area, and Trentino is now home to approximately 50 wild bears.

But no such projects have been attempted in Italy with wolves, which are believed to naturally return to their original habitats in pursuit of prey if the environmental conditions are right, and lynxes, which feed on hares, foxes, deer, and mice.

As well as having been spotted in Trentino and the neighbouring northern regions of Friuli Venezia Giulia and Piedmont in recent years, lynxes have also been seen in the Apennines, a mountain range that runs the length of Italy from Liguria to Calabria, and, strangely, in the central eastern region of Abruzzo.

It is not known whether the specimens recently spotted in more central areas of the country made their way down from the Alps by themselves, were illegally reintroduced, or were never driven from the region in the first place and simply remained there undetected for decades.

Italy’s lynx population is currently estimated to be at several hundred, but there are no official estimates as their solitary nature and tendency to hunt only at night makes them hard to track for research purposes.



Spanish conservationists lament ‘dark day’ as two brown bears shot by hunters

Two of Spain’s protected brown bears have been shot dead by hunters in separate incidents during wild boar hunts on Sunday, striking a blow to a conservation programme that has seen the population grow from near extinction.

Spanish conservationists lament 'dark day' as two brown bears shot by hunters
The bear Sarousse pictured here was shot dead by a boar hunter.

One adult female bear was shot dead by accident after reportedly being mistaken for a wild boar by a hunter in a conservation zone in the Palentina mountains near the town of Ventanilla in Castilla y Leon on Sunday lunchtime.

Another female bear, known as Sarousse, was killed apparently in self-defence by a hunter who disturbed the animal while hunting for wild boar in the Bardaji valley in the Robagorza region of the Spanish Pyrenees.  

The hunter responsible told police that he had no choice but to shoot the bear as it approached him in an “aggressive manner” when it was disturbed by dogs flushing out boar during the hunt.

Sarousse was a 21-year-old bear that had been captured in Slovenia and re-released into the wild on the French side of the Pyrenees in 2006 in a conservation programme aimed at boosting a population that was facing extinction.

Since 2010 she had established a territory on the Spanish side of the mountain range but was described by one local newspaper in Aragon, El Heraldo, as “a lonely bear who unfortunately was of little use to the bear population as she bore no cubs and lived an isolated life in the Turbón massif, far from other concentrations of bear popultions in the region”.

She is thought to have been responsible for frequent raids on local farms where she killed at least four sheep this year and raided at least ten beehives, the newspaper reported. 

Investigations into both deaths have been opened by Se`rona, the wildlife unit of the Guardia Civil.

The deaths raised questions over the issuing of hunting licences within conservation habitats which are known to be home to the endangered species.

A tweet from the Oso Pardo Foundation lamented that it was “a dark day” for the conservation of the  Brown Bears which in 2019 were thought to numberaround 330 bears in the Cantabrian Mountains and more than 50 in the Pyrenees.


Two other brown bears have been killed this year. the cadavre of one male named Cachou was found at the bottom of a cliff in the Aran valley in Catalonia, and a man was arrested earlier in November after an investigation determined that the animal had in fact been poisoned.

While in France in June, the body of a bear that had been shot was discovered in Ariège. 

But on a happy note, six new litters were recorded this spring with a total of 12 bear cubs.