Video: Brown Bears Fighting, Playing, & Scratching in Transylvanian Woods

Victoria Hillman is a National Geographic Explorer and Research Director for the Transylvanian Wildlife Project overseeing research on carnivores and biodiversity of Europe’s last great wilderness. Follow the expedition here on Explorers Journal through updates from the team.


As you may have gathered from the title, after all our posts about pink grasshoppers and other unusual sightings during our research, this post is all about the bears! Our camera traps have be out in the field now for a couple of months recording the large carnivore population and we are getting some great results. We have recorded over 15 different species so far from mice to bears along with some interesting behaviors. More about the other species in forth coming posts.

But for this journal entry it is all about the bears we have caught on our cameras. There have been a good number of varying ages from this year’s cubs through to adult bears. The Carpathian mountains are stronghold for the European brown bear with population estimates of around 5000 bears. Romania is estimated to be home to around 35% of the total brown bear population of Europe. Our results are encouraging, but it will be another eight months until we have a full set of results on the population numbers within the research site.

At the moment we are busy working on identifying individual bears and looking at their movements. We’re excited by the footage that we have captured in just a coupe of months, so here it is: first up is an adult bear scratching up against a tree followed by a compilation of adult bears sniffing two separate trees in two different areas of the site.

Next we have a mum with her three cubs on what seems to have been a misty day in the forest. One of the cubs certainly has shown an interest in our camera. All the cubs we have on camera appear to be putting a good amount of weight on coming up to winter with first snows having already been recorded!

And to finish off we have two bears fighting in the forest. Although these are all the same species you can see the marked difference in coloration between these two bears. What you may have also noticed is that many of the bears carry very pale patches of fur on the side of their neck although we are not sure why this is as it seems to run through all ages from cubs to adults. We will be looking into it further as we go through identifying individual bears.

We have been very pleased with the results so far and look forward to more from the cameras in the coming months. We have been carefully selecting sites for the cameras that would allow good coverage of an area and this has certainly been paying off as you can see. Over the next few months we will share with you what else we have been capturing on the camera traps. These camera traps are an essential part of our research as it allows us to have an insight into the lives of the inhabitants of the forest (in a non-intrusive manner) 24 hours a day capturing many different behaviors along with movement frequency. Interestingly, it does appear that some animals have picked up on the cameras investigating them from time to time as you may have noticed with the bear cub in the video.

The footage from the cameras is coming in thick and fast now giving us plenty to go through and work on to identify individual animals, documenting their behaviors and movements through the research site. We have made the decision to just record video on the cameras as the animals are considerably less aware of the cameras recording them than when we had the cameras set to take stills and video.

This has also allowed us to capture more data as there is not a gap between the photograph being taken and the video starting. We have also lengthened the time that the video records to capture as much as possible. We are just 4 months into our research and still have a long way to go, but we are looking forward to increasing our understanding of the animals that inhabit this great wilderness area.

NEXT: The Wonderful World of Arthropods



Meet the Author
My name is Victoria Hillman, I am a wildlife biologist and photographer. I have a BSc in Zoology with Marine Zoology, an MSc in Wildlife Biology and Conservation and years of experience behind the lens photographing the natural world. Through my work I would like to challenge people's perceptions of the natural world, encouraging them to enjoy and conserve it. I am the Research Director for the Transylvanian Wildlife Project overseeing our research on the carnivore populations and biodiversity of Europe's last great wilderness.