Did you know that just over 300 years ago, there were bears in Portugal? And that most of it was located right here in Peneda Gerês National Park?
It seems a joke, but the truth is that the grizzly bear was a very present specie in the north of Portugal until the Middle Ages, according to the documentation of the time.
Many books from the eleventh to thirteenth centuries declared the obligation to deliver the paws of the bears hunted, as a tribute to the king or his representatives.
Other books mentioned the shortage of bears and the prohibition of their hunting. Besides these documents, there are still archaeological findings that confirm it.
Myths and legends
Unlike the picture that goes on in children’s stories, this bear was not a man-eater – despite reports of attacks. The grizzly bear that lived here was fed by plants, berries, nuts, insects, mammals and fish.
Honey, the favorite dainty of this species, required the construction of so-called apiary walls (so-called bear silos), which were more than 3 meters long and protected hives from bear attacks.
There are records of its existence all over the country, but it was in this region that its presence was most noticed. The shooting down of the last grizzly bear in Portugal was made here in Gerês in 1650.
Some researchers admit, however, that they may have resisted until the twentieth century. There are records of bear presence in the Serra de Montesinho in 1905 and 1920, and reports of an animal slaughtered in the summer of 1946, five kilometers from Melgaço.
Known for having the dark Brown fur, the European grizzly bear can measure between 1.70 m and 2.50 m in length, and the height reaches up to 3 meters when standing. It weighs up to 280 kilos, being that the females are much lighter, being able to weigh 160 kilos.
Since I was six years old I hear stories about the grizzly bear being here in the National Park, but the truth is that I had never seen one. Last April 10, 2017, I was privileged with its appearance. The oldest inhabitants of these lost mountain villages are said to be the only who see them, because of their pure heart and soul.
They dedicated their lives to this region, far from all the tourist pressure (by a number of enterprises which have arisen in the Market after experiencing this fantastic region). For this reason and many others that we are The Moutain Guides Company. Whether it is a legend or not, here is our proof.