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The Bears You Didn’t Know Roam Armenia: Photos & Videos

Rarely have you heard of folks who have seen a bear in Armenia. 

Perhaps those that did never lived to tell the tale. 

For centuries, tucked away in what is now known as the Khosrov Forest Reserve, Armenia has been home to thousands of creatures. 

The Armenian King Khosrov Kotak was the first to declare the area to be conserved in the earlier half of the 4th century, where military exercises and royal hunting took place. 16 centuries later in 1958, the Armenian government revived this and declared the forest a reserve zone to preserve the unique wildlife and plant species. 

A MIASEEN fan favorite of the animals in this reserve are the Syrian Brown Bears, indigenous to the Caucasus and Middle East region. The Syrian Brown Bear differentiates itself from other brown bear subspecies with their light brown fur and smaller stature.

The Syrian Brown Bears are the only bears in the world known to have white claws. They live in Armenia.
The Syrian Brown Bears are the only bears in the world known to have white claws.

Most notable, however, are their white claws. The Syrian Brown Bear is the only bear known in the world to have these white claws, as most brown bears have varying yellow and brown claw colors.

Animal rescue organizations, including the WWF and The Foundation for the Preservation of Wildlife and Cultural Assets, have planted camera traps across the Khosrov Reserve to grab footage of all different wildlife in their natural habitat. This solo bear was a little camera shy when it discovered the lens looking back at him.

The Khosrov Forest is known for its varying terrain, from lush drought-resistant shrubbery over rolling hills to rigid centuries-old mountains and caves, making it difficult for humans to build roads and travel through the reserve. But these bears are no strangers to scaling weathered rocks.

A female bear and two cubs in the Khosrov Reserve. Photo by WWF & Khosrov Forest State Reserve.

Even bears in Armenia are known to like a good back rub. When you're on your own, these trees seem to make for nice scratchers.

If you're ever looking for the nightlife scene in Armenia, be careful where you wander.

Syrian Brown Bears are essential to their habitat ecosystem. Being one of the most dominant omnivores in their environment, their diet of berries, varying plants, insects, and small mammals enables their surroundings to flourish. The bears fertilize more vegetation from what they eat as they disperse it across the reserve, where more vegetation grows for other species to consume. These Syrian Brown Bears cleanly eat meat from any mammal or bird carcass, which in turn keeps the air and area clean of diseases while neutralizing the mammal population in the area.

A female Syrian brown bear at the FPWC rescue center in Armenia.

Like in any region, bears in Armenia have been known to be illegally captured and hunted. Organizations like the WWF, FPWC, and the International Animal Rescue frequent areas in Armenia to ensure these bears are released from captivity, receive proper medical treatment as needed, and have proper safety conditions at local zoos. These organizations have been especially watchful in the face of the tragic events in 2018 and 2019 surrounding the Yerevan Zoo, which lead to the resignation of the zoo's director following numerous unlawful animal deaths.

Organizations like the IAR are known to work with Armenia's Ministry of Emergency Situations to ensure animal safety. In the video below, the IAR's local Armenian partners were alerted by Armenia's MEA that a bear was trapped in a net tangled and tied to a tree, causing the bear to strangle. The local Armenian partners were able to rush to the bear's aide.

While various organizations report that anywhere from 30 to 60 bears remain in "private captivity" in Armenia, meaning not in sanctuaries, public zoos, or rescue centers, many successful efforts have been made to return these bears to their natural habitat.

These Armenian bears seem to be having a grand ol' time in the wild, getting into all kinds of nonsense. While sightings may be rare, bear populations continue to exist in Khosrov Reserve and the Vayots Dzor Region.

Want to learn more about the wildlife in Armenia? We have more coming soon!

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