HT: Karen L. Myers.
Management experts imported a male brown bear from Slovenia to the Pyrenees in order to enhance reproduction opportunities for the endangered bear population, but recently the same Big Brains have been worried that their imported bear may have been too good at his job. These kinds of people are never happy.
In 1997, Pyros was brought from Slovenia to this mountain range on the Spanish-French border to replenish a brown bear population on the verge of extinction. And boy did he ever get the job done. About three-quarters of the nearly 40 bears now roaming the Pyrenees are his offspring, say French and Spanish conservation officials.
Pyros stands nearly 7 feet tall on his hind legs and weighs more than 500 pounds. His amorousness has made him a living legend. The lumbering Lothario has mated with at least eight different females, including some of his own offspring.
Wildlife officials in Spain now say they want to introduce a new male bear onto Pyrosâ€™s domain, in the name of genetic diversity. That is providing ammunition not only for critics, who say the interloperâ€™s arrival would be an affront to Pyros, but also for skeptics, who say he doesnâ€™t stand a chance.
If all goes according to plan, a bear will be transported from Slovenia and released into the wild in May, officials from Spainâ€™s northern Catalonia region say. Animal specialists say there is an urgent need for new blood. Pyrosâ€™s hold on the female bears, they say, poses a threat to the gene pool. …
â€œItâ€™s like what happened to the royal houses of Europe that intermarried so much,â€ passing on infirmities such as hemophilia, explained Ivan Afonso, conservation director for the Catalan county of Val dâ€™Aran. …
Regional and county officials debate whether a younger bear can win a mating contest with the acknowledged master. Pyros is about 27 years old, and it is unusual for brown bears older than 30 to survive in the wild, said Santiago PalazÃ³n, a wildlife specialist for Cataloniaâ€™s regional government. â€œHeâ€™s been hanging on and hanging on and hanging on,â€ said Mr. PalazÃ³n. â€œBut heâ€™s reached the point of dying.â€
Other Pyros watchers say the new bearâ€™s sponsors may be underestimating their tall, dark and hairy hero. â€œHeâ€™s supermanâ€¦a myth,â€ said Carlos Barrera, the head of the government in Val dâ€™Aran, the heart of Pyrosâ€™s turf.
For the greater good of the bear community, the only sure solutions are either â€œkilling [Pyros], sterilizing him or returning him to Slovenia,â€ said Mr. Afonso.
Thanks to his virility, Pyros may be the only bear anywhere with his own groupies. Spanish Pyros fans started a Twitter account under his name identifying him as the â€œfather of all the bears.â€ French public television dubbed him â€œthe stud of the Pyreneesâ€ and a French newspaper likened him to Casanova.
A couple of years ago, Pyrenean officials did broach the idea of castrating Pyros. That trial balloon attracted media interest beyond scientific journals. â€œRandy bear faces the snip,â€ blared the headline in the U.K tabloid, Metro.
The proposal was dropped as being excessively cruelâ€”as well as impractical, given the difficulty of capturing him.