Wildlife experts confirmed that the first ever brown bear have been sighted in Portugal in more than a century Thursday, after multiple reports that the animal was seen in the northeast of the country.
“The reappearance of individuals from this species in Portugal… has now been confirmed by the [Institute for Conservation of Nature and Forests (ICNF)],” the Portuguese ICNF stated.
The bear, which most likely belong to a population of bears living in the western Cantabrian Mountains in northern Spain, is thought to have wandered across the border. The town is known to be 20 kilometers (12 miles) from the Spanish border.
“The fact that a bear has crossed our border does not mean that there is a bear established in Portugal. At the moment, we have a stray animal,” Paulo Caetano, an author of a book on bears, told a Portuguese radio.
He added that the young male might be looking for “a peaceful territory, a companion, and food.”
According to media reports, the last living bear in Portugal was killed in the northwest mountainous region of Geres in 1843. Since then in the 19th century, brown bears were known to be extinct in the country.
“The last reports of a stable presence of brown bears in Portugal are between the 18th and the end of the 19th century. They then died out,” ICNF added.
Bear population in the Cantabrian mountain range is said to be increasing since the 1989 adoption of a relocation plan. 330 bears were tallied in those mountains last year, according to Oso Pardo, an environmentalist foundation.