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On 28 July 2005, a student from Germany took a picture of a bear in the Swiss National Park, the first bear in Switzerland in 100 years! Since 2005, bears have been reported in the Engadin and the National Park area almost every year. However so far, none of the bears that have entered Switzerland became resident. As far as possible, each immigrating bear is attempted to be identified by genetic methods. A feasibility study recognised suitable habitat within Switzerland. The area between the Trentino and the Grisons Alps is mountainous, rich in forests and largely pristine throughout, and works as a corridor between the Swiss and the Italian National Park. Consequently, it was to be expected from the beginning that individual bears would arrive in Switzerland in this area.

Alps & Dinaric mountains

Within the Alps, bears are found in two areas. The Italian Trentino contains a small population, which was strengthened between 1999 and 2002 through the translocation of 10 bears from Slovenia. Bears also occur in the border triangle of Italy-Austria-Slovenia, with bears arriving from the Dinaric population. The latter is the source for the natural dispersal into the Alps as well as for translocation to Italy and Austria.

In 2019, there were approximately 66 bears living in the Trentino. Between 2002 and 2018, 71 reproductions were recorded with a total of 144 cubs. The estimation for the Dinaric population in 2015 was 2,145 individuals (1,875–2,450). In the rest of the Alps, between the Trentino and the Dinaric mountains, an estimated 50–60 animals were present in 2015 – almost exclusively young, dispersing males.

In 1972, one bear travelled from Yugoslavia to Austria. In 1989–1993, three bears were released into the same area in the north-eastern Alps, creating a small population. However in 2011, all bears had disappeared again.


An assessment of the brown bear in Europe was performed for the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species in 2018. The total population was estimated at 15,000–20,000 individuals (without Russia) and at 50,000–55,000 individuals (incl. the European part of Russia), respectively. The distribution of the total number of individuals into the different populations is presented in the table below.

ScandinavianNOR, SWE2,825Decreasing
KarelianNOR, FIN1,660Stable
BalticEST, LVA700Stable
CarpathianROU, SVK, POL, SRB7,630Stable
Dinara-PindosSVN, HRV, BIH, MNE, MKD, ALB, SRB, GRC3,950Stable or increasing
AlpsITA, CHE, AUT, SVN49–69Stable or increasing
BalkansBGR, GRC, SRB468–665Stable
Apennine MountainsITA45–69Stable
PyreneesESP, FRA30Stable
1Based on data from 2016

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