photo credit: Francesco Culicelli
The Marsican bear population is 50-60 individuals and considered Critically Endangered by the IUCN. Located in the Central Apennines, the subspecies of the brown bear is considered a wildlife symbol of the area in the mountain, woodland and prairie habitats in which it lives. However, human-caused mortality is still high due to conflict with bears and livestock, retaliation poaching, disturbance through human activities, habitat fragmentation, old fencing and barriers hampering bear movements, health problems caused by diseases caught from livestock and pets and vehicle-bear collisions. This project will prune abandoned fruit trees to allow better access and more food for the bears, set up 672 acoustic and optical wildlife warning reflectors along an 11.2 km stretch of the main road that passes through the area which will make a noise when car lights reach them to scare the bears away, remove 4 km of old and abandoned barbed wire and fencing from mountain areas to promote easier movement of the bears to new areas and improve the landscape, restore and improve signage on 3 trails in the area to prevent hikers wandering off trails getting lost and disturbing bears in their dens or natural habitat.
Following completion in spring 2019, this project has:
- Pruned a total of 719 fruit trees to increase the availability of food sources for the Marsican bear, thereby helping reduce wildlife-human conflict. Following this action, signs of bears frequenting the pruning area have been found.
- Installed 740 optical or acoustic “whistling’ warning reflectors along a stretch of road known to have a high incidence of wildlife-vehicle collisions. This action has led to a dramatic decrease in road kills.
- Removed a massive 20,246 m of barbed wire - equal to 9,100 m of fences - was removed from the mountains between Villalago, Bisegna, Anversa degli Abruzzi and Ortona dei Marsi, allowing for easier movement of wildlife. This work proved very difficult at times, with wire needing to be untangled from dense bushes and forest, sometimes in harsh weather conditions. Thankfully the hard work was rewarded with a noticeable increase in animals using game trails in the area.
- Created wildlife shelters by leaving residual wooden posts from the wire fencing stacked on site – to simulate heaps of dead wood to shelter various wildlife such as reptiles or birds.
- Successfully restored trail signage for three area trails. This action not only improves accessibility for hikers through identifiable paths, but also ensures that hikers, especially those who are not familiar with the area, do not roam off trail and disturb bear habitat.
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