Monday, 9 June 2014

Alpha-male bear facing castration as sexual dominance threatens population

Officials in the Pyrenees are considering how to curb the sexual appetite of Pyros the bear to give his rivals a chance to mate

Ashifa Kassam in Madrid

The Guardian, Sunday 8 June 2014 16.51 BST

An elderly brown bear in the Pyrenees is facing castration or segregation amid fears that his sexual dominance is threatening the species' survival in the region by limiting genetic diversity.

Pyros, one of the oldest of the 30 or so bears who roam the mountains between France and Spain, is the father, grandfather or great-grandfather of nearly all of the cubs born in the Pyrenees over the past two decades. There are four other males in the colony – only one of them is not related to Pyros – and none of them have fathered any offspring.

Spanish officials said they were being forced to decide between castration or segregation for Pyros after the recent birth of a cub who was both his daughter and grand-daughter.

"If he keeps up this sexual vigour and dominant attitude for a few more years, the other males in the mountains have no chance of mating with any of the females," José Enrique Arró, the councillor who oversees environmental issues in the Val d'Aran, told La Vanguardia.

Officials in Spain and France have been working for more than a decade to reintroduce brown bears to the mountain range. Now the colony's survival is threatened by serious inbreeding, much of it directly linked to the continued sexual dominance of Pyros. Most brown bears are sexual active until they reach 19 years of age. But Pyros, now aged 26, shows no sign of slowing down.

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