We set out from the Sassongher in search of the cave bear
The bear was believed to have become extinct in Trentino and the Dolomites as early as 35,000 years ago. It seemed as though any trace of the prehistoric cave bear ended in the same historical period as when the last Neanderthal probably died out. Yet, it now appears that was not the case. About 12,000 years ago, at the end of the last Ice Age of the Pleistocene epoch, the mountains continued to hold back the last glaciers in Val Badia. The mountain is an extreme territory that did not yet facilitate human settlement.
The snow and ice formed such a thick white blanket that it did not manage to melt even in summer. The high mountain remained an even more unattainable dimension for mankind, yet it may not have been for the last legendary “cave bears”.
Tales of cave bears
The stories about bears in Trentino and cave bears have fed the human imagination. Since ancient times, tales of hunting and frequent clashes with these animals that present great danger for humans have been part of folklore, often amplifying reality to be even more sensational.
Their bones were said to have belonged to legendary creatures such as dragons or griffins. In the 1600s, the skulls of these animals were presented to people as being deformed “monsters” that invaded the remote areas such as the forests and mountains.
And whilst the stories of these bears have been lost to legend, the real traces can still be found today in Val Badia. Just a few years ago, the cave itself confirmed that the cave bear was not only the protagonist of terrifying tales, but also a reality.
The cave is located on the Conturines, at 2,800 metres above sea level, between the rocky massif of Dolomia and the glacier below – a cave with a depth of over 200 metres, at the end of which was found – only in 1987 – a considerable amount of prehistoric bear bones, alias the Ursus Spelaeus, known as the “cave bear”.
Bears in Trentino, the Conturines Caves
In the Cunturines Group (or simply the Conturines), a collection of mountains in the Eastern Dolomites of Badia, the final remains of a group of cave bears were found. The males could reach 3 metres in height (when standing upright) and could weigh up to 1,000 kilograms, much greater than the imposing Kodiak, the Grizzly and the bears of the Kamchatka peninsula.
In spite of its size, the Ursus Spelaeus Ladinus, named after its discovery in the cavern in the dolomite rock of the Conturines, has been scientifically confirmed to be a non-carnivorous animal.
Today, we can go on an excursion and explore the cave. Those wanting to discover more can also take the opportunity to deepen their knowledge on the subject at the beautiful San Cassiano museum entirely dedicated to this mighty animal. A year after this discovery, it seems that the mythical world of the Fanes is enriched with a new find that reveals the existence of another animal, the cave lion, but that is another story.
To experience a one-day excursion dedicated to the Conturines on a date that suits you, simply write to us or contact us and we can organise an exclusive programme dedicated to you and the bear in Trentino.