Stable bear population in Norway | Norwegian Institute for Natural Research

Stable bear population in Norway | Norwegian Institute for Natural Research
Stable bear population in Norway | Norwegian Institute for Natural Research
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In 2023, for the 15th year in a row, a national collection of dirt and hair from brown bears in Norway was carried out for DNA analyses. In addition, tissue samples were collected from dead bears.

The public contributes significantly in connection with the sample collection of dirt and hair, in addition to the fact that the Norwegian Nature Inspectorate (SNO) collects a significant number of samples as part of its mission.

Rovdata has reviewed the analyzed sample material and today presents a national overview of the number of detected individuals, gender distribution in the population, and estimated number of cubs in 2023 in a new status report for brown bears. (link)

Small changes from 2022

A total of 1,642 samples of presumed origin from brown bears have been analysed, which is around 250 more than in 2022. Of these, 904 samples, i.e. 55 per cent, resulted in a functioning DNA profile that could be used to determine gender and individual.

– We have identified a total of 178 different brown bears on DNA in Norway in 2023, of which 79 are female and 99 are male. This is a minimum number of bears that have visited the country’s borders during the year. Many of the detected individuals use areas across the national border and only spend part of the year in Norway, explains Jonas Kindberg, head of Rovdata.

While the number of female bears is unchanged from the previous year, the number of detected male bears has increased by three individuals.

Eight of the 178 bears are documented to have died in the period.

A clear increase in Hedmark

As in previous years, brown bears have mainly been detected in and around known and demarcated brown bear areas in Norway, such as eastern Hedmark, northeastern Trøndelag, inner Troms, Anárjohka-Karasjok and Sør-Varanger.

– We see that the development in the number of detected individuals in the game regions shows the same main trend as we have seen in recent years. There is a clear increase in the number of individuals in raptor region 5, which is the old Hedmark county, while there is a decrease in region 6 (Trøndelag) and a slight increase in region 8 (Troms and Finnmark), explains Kindberg.

The development in the number of detected female bears in the various game regions largely reflects the same tendencies, with an increase in region 5 and in parts of region 8 (Finnmark)

Below the stock target

The Storting has adopted a national population target of 13 annual bear litters in Norway. The number of annual cubs is estimated with a model based on the number of detected female bears and, among other things, the geographical distribution of these.

For 2023, it is estimated that 9.6 litters of young were born (95% uncertainty interval: 4.7 – 15.1) in Norway.

– This is almost identical to the estimate from 2022, and the bear population is below the national population target, concludes Kindberg.

The national population target is distributed among four game regions and there are only marginal changes in the number of estimated litters in these from 2022 to 2023. Only Hedmark is above the target in 2023, with five estimated litters (1.6-9.0) and a population target of three litters.

Read the full bear report here:
Brøseth, H., Kopatz, A. & Kleven, O. 2024. DNA-based monitoring of brown bears in Norway in 2023. NINA Report 2454. Norwegian Institute for Natural Research.

You will find results from all analyzed bear samples in Rovbase (link).

Facts about brown bear monitoring in Norway:

  • Rovdata is responsible for the monitoring of brown bears in Norway and for the best possible overview of how many individuals there are in the country.
  • The monitoring is carried out through the national monitoring program for wild game, commissioned by the Norwegian Environment Agency.
  • In 2023, a collection of DNA from brown bears across the country was carried out for the 15th year in a row.
  • The purpose of the DNA-based monitoring is to record how many brown bears there are in the country, the distribution of females and males, as well as to calculate how many litters of bear cubs are born each year.
  • The collection of excrement, hair and saliva/saliva in the field is carried out by the State Nature Inspectorate (SNO), moose hunters, grazers and other users of open fields. Tissue samples are also taken from all dead bears during the year.
  • The samples are analyzed by the Center for Biodiversity Genetics (NINAGEN) at NINA, and the results are reported and disseminated by Rovdata around 1 April each year.

Contact persons in Rovdata:


The article is in Norwegian

Tags: Stable bear population Norway Norwegian Institute Natural Research

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