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  1. Meeting a wild bear in the mountains is quite a challenge. The Brown Bear is included in the Red Book of Bulgaria. It inhabits mainly Rila, Pirin, Rhodopes and Central Balkan mountains. There are about 530 individuals in the country, but the population is declining due to the lack of enough food and habitats. There are also migrating bears. For their free passage to Greece, for example, a tunnel was made at Ilinden border checkpoint. The bears also like the Trayanovi Vrata Pass over the Trakia highway, from which they move from the Rhodopes to the Balkan Mountains.

    For several years I have been looking for a wild bear, but I have not encountered one in the mountains so far. And to say honestly, I do not know how I would react if I met her and whether I would think of taking pictures at all!!

    There are plenty of opportunities in Europe to shoot wild bears from hides. But for me those, for example, in Finland and Norway are quite remote and expensive. That's why I sought opportunities in countries closer to Bulgaria and found such in Romania and Slovenia. Last month I decided to use the services of a company in southern Slovenia during my trip from Bulgaria to Germany by car.

    The company has built and maintained several hides in three places in the mountains near the border with Croatia. Currently there are about 950 wild bears in Slovenia, 25% of them inhabiting this region.

    I had no idea how the organizers made the animals come to certain places near the hides.
    It turned out that for years they have been spreading food in these places (usually maize grains) and bears are used to this and often visit places to eat.

    Wild bears are usually active at dusk and at night. Early in the morning, but there is no chance to spend the night in the hides to take pictures early in the morning. Also, if photographers arrive at the hides early in the morning, the bears will feel this and the likelihood to appear before noon is almost zero.

    As a rule, photographers go to the shelters by 3:30 pm and stay there for about four and a half hours until dark, about 20:00. Will bears appear? This is not certain, but this is an obvious risk. On the first day, the first bear appeared quite late, at about 19.00 when it was already quite dark. And the weather all day was cloudy and gloomy, and there were not very good conditions for taking pictures.

    The next day we were lucky - the weather was partly cloudy, with more sun, and the first bear appeared just 30 minutes after we were in the hiding places.

    It was really wonderful to watch these majestic animals from such a small distance. (The use of a 200 or 300 mm lens is quite sufficient, more importantly a brighter lens - f2.8, and a suitable camera that maintains higher ISO without a lot of noise. I set an ISO limit of 3200 and unfortunately my Canon 7d II did not always do well.)

    What made me the most impression is that the people in the area live in complete harmony with the bears. Quite often, they are very close to the populated areas. People told me that sometimes they can see bears in the meadows early in the morning, feeding on fresh plants.
    In the morning the second day we made a walk with my wife and about 500 meters from the village where we stayed, we came across fresh bear feces. It was about 15 km from the hide, but the presence of maize grains in the feces clearly shows that this bear was feeding there.

    Brown bear - Ursus arctos Animal,Animalia,Brown bear,Carnivora,Chordata,Europe,Geotagged,Grizzly bears,Lower Carniola,Mammalia,Nature,Slovenia,Spring,Ursidae,Ursus arctos,Wildlife,mammals

    And in the evening, already dark when we were taken back from the hides, a bear appeared on the road and the driver had to stop abruptly to not hit her (maybe about 1 km to the village!).

    Numerous domestic animals grazed the surrounding lawns - mainly cows and horses - surrounded by an electric wire fencing. As far as I’ve been informed, there have been no cases of bears attacking domestic animals or humans.

    The organizers are observing the places around the hides with night vision cameras and told me there were several mamma bears in the area with small cubs. A bear with 3 cubs often appears at the place where I shot, but usually too late when it is dark and not suitable for photography.

    It was a great experience for me, and I was eager to share it here.
    Replied 9 months ago, modified 9 months ago
  2. Amazing - great story and wonderful that there are some civilized places in the world where humans can live in peace with such incredible animals. Replied 10 months ago
  3. Wonderful story, Jivko! Want me to move it to this forum that is perhaps more fitting?

    On topic, great to read about your experience. Your coverage of Eastern Europe I consider very important and valuable, if not a total joy to follow.
    Replied 9 months ago
  4. Fantastic encounter, Jivko! Thanks for sharing! Replied 9 months ago
  5. @Ferdy, yes, please, move it to Wildlife stories. Replied 9 months ago
  6. Done! Replied 9 months ago
  7. This is such a nice story! And thanks so much for sharing the whereabouts! Replied 9 months ago
  8. Thank you, Marta! Replied 9 months ago

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