Jon E. Swenson, Petter Wabakken, Finn Sandegren, Anders Bjärvall, Robert Franzén, Arne Söderberg
Wildlife Biology 1 (1), 11-25, (1 March 1995) https://doi.org/10.2981/wlb.1995.005
Records of bountied brown bears Ursus arctos in Norway and Sweden were analysed to estimate population size in the mid-1800's, and changes in population size and distribution in relation to the bear management policies of both countries. In the mid-1800's about 65% of the bears in Scandinavia were in Norway (perhaps 3,100 in Norway and 1,650 in Sweden). Both countries tried to eliminate the bear in the 1800's; Sweden was more effective. By the turn of the century, the numbers of bears were low in both countries. The lowest population level in the population remnants that have subsequently survived occurred around 1930 and was estimated at 130 bears. Sweden's policy was changed at the turn of the century to save the bear from extinction. This policy was successful, and the population is now large and expanding. Norway did not change its policy and bears were virtually eliminated by 1920–30. Since 1975, bear observations increased in Norway. This coincided temporally with an abrupt increase in the Swedish bear population, and bears reappeared sooner in areas closer to the remnant Swedish populations. Both conditions support our conclusion that the bear was virtually exterminated in Norway and suggest that bears observed now are primarily immigrants from Sweden, except for far northern Norway, which was recolonised from Russia and Finland. Today, we estimate that the Scandinavian bear population numbers about 700, with about 2% in Norway (on average about 14 in Norway, 650–700 in Sweden). This is a drastic reduction in the estimate of bears in Norway, compared with earlier studies. The trends in bear numbers responded to the policies in effect. The most effective measures used in Scandinavia to conserve bears were those that reduced or eliminated the economic incentive for people to kill them. Our analysis also suggests that population estimates based on reports from observations made by the general public can be greatly inflated.