Cantabrian Wildlife and Conservation Tour
This trip is dedicated to explore in depth the richness of Cantabrian landscapes, its wildlife and the main conservation issues that arise from the interaction with the
traditional rural economy. To do so the trip is organised in collaboration with the organisations doing conservation work in the area and using local expert wildlife
guides. Part of the price of the trip goes to help the work of the Conservation organisations that participate in it.
Why the Cantabrian range and this three iconic species?
The Cantabrian Range runs for 500 km along the North Spain, creating a barrier between the Cantabrian Sea and its humid mild climate and the dry continental plateau of central Spain. The range holds an amazing biodiversity with multiple endemic species and some of the most iconic species in Spain: the Bearded Vulture, the Brown Bear and the Iberian Wolf. But this species are only the flag species of conservation to protect the rich ecosystem that holds them and includes, only in the Picos de Europa National Park, 1750 species of flora, 135 species of butterflies, over 200 species of vertebrates, of which more than half are birds.This biodiversityhas survived, suffered and developed in coexistence with a millenary rural culture still present today. This coexistence of wildlife, traditional farming, tourism and rural development creates great challenges and opportunities for the main conservation projects in the Cantabrian range, a reality that can be best apprehended with the cases of the three iconic species that will guide our trip.
The Bearded Vulture (BV) is one of the most beautiful birds to be seen in the European mountains, with its bright orange colour, it’s up to 3 m wingspan and its eagle like movements.
Partly because of its beauty and the consequent trophy hunt, and partly because of the general use of poison in the second half of the XXth century the historical populations got reduced dramatically to find that 30 years ago there was only one viable population left in Europe, and this was the endangered population of the Pyrenees. Helped by the iconic image of the BV theFCQ developed a comprehensive conservation project that includes intense field work, technical studies in veterinary and genetics, incubation and hacking techniques…but also environmental
education, poison awareness campaigns, rural development projects around traditional farming and scientific tourism. After years of work and with the Pyrenean population recovering it became obvious that the conservation effort had to go towards the recuperation of other historical populations. The field observations showed a clear direction of BV moving west along the mountain ranges of Northern Spain towards the Picos de Europa, a unique mountain area where the specie had been present until the sixties. This gave way to the present reintroduction project of the BV in the Picos de Europa National Park, developed by the FCQ in cooperation with the National Park authorities of Ordesa and Picos de Europa national parks and the regional governments involved, and financed with the help of the European Life projects https://liferedquebrantahuesos.quebrantahu esos.org/htm/en/inicio/inicio.htm
Since the reintroduction project started with the viability studies in 2002 there has been several releases and we are now witnessing the first breeding attempts in the Picos de Europa. The BV conservation project offers a great insight into the complexity and challenges of a conservation project, and this trip wants to share it with you.
Cantabrian Brown Bear
Seeing the evolution of wildlife in Europe in the last centuries and the constant prosecution of brown bears in Spain it is incredible to see today a population of around 250 in the Cantabrian range. After a minimum population of 60-70 in the eighties, the conservation efforts have succeed to recuperate a specie that still faces numerous challenges. The population of Cantabrian bears is divided in two isolated populations with the smaller Easter population struggling to grow due to genetic challenges and a bigger human pressure. The growing population of the healthier western areas faces the challenge of the increasing interaction with humans and the increase of poisoning in the region due to the increase of the Wolf population. The Fapas conservation trust has been working since 1982 to preserve the Cantabrian population of Brown Bears. Their comprehensive work includes decades of monitoring the species with photo trapping, campaigns to promote the availability of food for the species with fruit tree plantations and pollination programs, a strong legal action to fight furtive hunting, poison and the prohibition to leave carrion in the mountains, etc.
The Iberian subspecies of wolf enjoys and suffers the same attention as all wolf species in the world. Subject to an almost mistical reverence by some, prosecuted as the cause of all troubles by others, the wolf has managed to survive in the Iberian Peninsula to represent nowadays the conflict between the growing conservation consciousness of society and the difficulties of mantaining a traditional farming economy nowadays. In a way it also represents the conflict between the urban
and rural world in a modern society, making it a very interesting and challenging figure of Spanish biodiversity. The Iberian wolf populations was at its minimum in the seventies when only a small population in the North West of the peninsula survived. Since then wolves have profited from some conservation measures but mainly from the general abandonment of the rural areas, and are now in expansion recovering their historical grounds in Norther Spain. Although it is very difficult to know with certainty due to the lack of enough census the estimated number of wolf packs in Spain could be around 300, most of them around the Cantabrian range.
Level of activity
The purpose of this trip is to have access to wildlife and landscapes without having to do a massive effort. For this we have chosen the areas to be accessible either with the help of support all terrain vehicles or by gentle hikes. There will be some chances to offer optional hikes to participants that could go up to 3 hours, but the activities of the program can be enjoyed with hikes less than 5 k. long and with little elevation gains.
Level of culture
The Cantabrian range is rich in rural culture as well as having some fascinating historical sites. The way of life up in the mountains has changed in the last 50 years
but the traditional ways of life can still be seen. Specially significant for the area and for the conservation of biodiversity is the traditional expensive farming systems, in
many cases semi nomadic, that still fill the mountains with cows, sheeps and goats in the summer months. Artisan food production is a major part of
the economy here, cheeses in particular are famously good. With time spent with your own guide exploring the area, you will start to discover how people live in the area so we fully expect you to come away from this trip having had a great, fun adventure holiday in beautiful surroundings, but also with an appreciation of the local culture. Historical sites and events will also be part of your trip as this area has an interesting Medieval heritage along the Camino de Santiago del Norte.
Level of comfort
The accommodation of this trip has been chosen trying to combine the best location for the sighting purposes with the highest possible comfort. We work
with locally owned small business. In Riaño and Somiedo areas the offer of accommodation is more limited but in the Picos de Europa area our first and last
venues are our two favourite hotels in the area.
Included in Price
Return Flights from the UK to Spain. All meals are included and local wine is included with dinners, as is transport and all activities or entrances required.
Tips for local guides, restaurants, etc are not included.