I know the guy who knows the guy who knows the guy
Yes! I know him, the guy who knows the guy who. . . . (20 times. . . ) who knows the guy who has seen the bear!
If you have the very improbable luck to spot a bear in the Western Pyrénées (and the more improbable luck to make a picture), tell me! Tell the local and international newspapers. . . . !
This local inhabitant WAS very shy and the last one has been (accidently?) killed on November 1st 2004; it was a female named Canelle (Cinnamon), and her two cubs died during the Pyrenean winter. The bear, in the Pyrénées is generally considered as a predator, killing lots of sheep, and since ages the shepherds and their famous Patou dogs fought these beasts. Since the fifties (there were a few tens at the time, their population diminishing rapidly. . . ) the bear is a political issue in Bigorre and Bearn, and conservationists could not convince the locals not to hunt and kill the bears anymore.
Today, there are a small dozen of bears in the Eastern Pyrénées, which have been “imported” from Slovenia, and these are easier to spot, as they are not shy, sometimes cross the roads, come close to villages, provoke accidents, are killed on roads. . . . The majority of locals would like them to be eradicated, but the French government tries to keep the bears there, subsidising a lot the shepherds for their losses. Well, to make it short, the bears you may see are Pyrénéan since 2006, they are named Franska, Havla, Bambou. . . . Government should have taken drastic action long before, and the Pyrénéan bear would still roam in the mountains and sometimes give a big frightening to the hikers!
People are strange. . . . . . they fight and eradicate this wonderful animal, and still have it as emblem, use it as marketing argument (main picture), tell about like a symbol of the Pyrénées, sell tons of teddies in the tourist places. . . . .
Here (picture 2), is a peaceful Patou welcoming me at a restaurant in Vallée d’Aspe, but beware! These dogs would die for their herds, and some accidents with these dogs have been reported about people who got too close to the shhep they were in charge of. The Patou is a very nice dog, but can be very aggressive, like the famous Turkish Kangal dogs, in some circumstances; people say that fighting with the bears is in their genes, so, do dot disguise as bears when your are on a hike in the high meadows!
There are no bears in the Parc National des Pyrénées, do not expect to see one.
Sheep and cheese
Sheep herding is a very important local economic activity in the Pyrénées, and you may meet a lot in the National Park from May to October, grazing on the alpine meadows. All the little white dots on picture 1 are sheep enjoying the new spring grass in the small Magnabait Valley, North of Pic du Midi d’Ossau.
Even the sheep who know well their mountains prefer to keep near the road on misty days (picture2, here, on the road from Gavarnie to Col des Especieres); they have been marked with blue paint, but in the rain, the paint dissolves and flows. . . here are (almost) blue sheep!
The sheep go quite high on the mountain, like this one not far from Pic du Vignemale (picture3).
The sheep live either “half wild” on the mountains or they are milked by their shepherds to make the wonderful Pyrénéan sheep cheese; cheese full of perfumes, flavours of the mountain, sometimes you feel like eating flowers when eating young cheese. . . . You find this cheese in the shops in the villages and greater cities; on the picture4 you see sheep and also cow cheese, which is wonderful too, to take on picnic. The sheep cheese has an “appellation controlee”, a label indicating its quality and provenance; when you walk near some villages, the locals remind you that you are walking in a place where the cheese is produced. (picture5).
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