The Brown Bears

The Brown Bear is one of the largest land carnivores in Europe. For thousands of years Brown Bears roamed Ireland. Ireland was once clothed in dense woodland and the Irish Bears called these ancient Celtic rainforests home.

Irish Bears would have preyed upon Red deer, wild boar & Irish hares and they would have fished in our salmon rich rivers. The Bears would have fattened up for their winter hibernation by eating berries and other seasonal fruits in Autumn.

Bears hibernated in caves and this is where we find many bear bones.

bear bones

10,400 – 4,000 year old bear bones at the Ailwee Caves, Co. Clare, Ireland.

DNA evidence suggests that Irish brown bears maybe the ancestor of the modern Polar Bear. By studying the DNA extracted from Brown Bear remains found in Irish caves, scientists were able to confirm that Irish brown bears were the maternal ancestors of the Polar Bear. Prior to this finding it was believed that the Polar Bear descended from bears on the west coast of Canada and the United States.

It is hard to pinpoint when the Brown Bear went Extinct in Ireland. We know that Caledonian Brown Bears from Scotland were sent to Rome to fight in the Coliseums. Many of the bones found in Ireland have butcher cut marks which indicate that the Irish people were hunting the bears. It is believed that the Irish brown bear went extinct around 2,500 years ago due to deforestation and loss of habitat to agriculture. It is possible that the bears survived here until more recent times in the mountains and last remaining pockets of forest.

The Irish bear lives on in our folklore. The Irish name McMahon (Mac Mathghamhain) means son of bear.

For the first time in thousands of years the Irish Brown Bear can be found, back in the woodlands of County Donegal.


Our Bears

Our Bears are siblings. One boy and two girls. They were rescued from a Museum in Lithuania where they were being kept illegally as a tourist attraction.

The small dirty cage in which the bears lived.

The Bear Rescue Charity, Bears in Mind, were able to rescue the bears and transport them to a sanctuary in Belgium called Natturhelpcentrum. Bears In Mind was established in 1993 as a Rescue charity for bears in need around the world

The bears were cared for at Natuurhulpcentrum until we were able to offer them a home here at Wild Ireland.

Natuurhulpcentrum is an animal rescue centre based in Belgium. They rescue and rehabilitate up to 8,000 wild animals every year. They also rescue exotic animals which have been abused or mistreated from bad zoos, circuses and from the illegal pet trade. They care for many exotic animals such as lions, tigers, bears and monkeys.

The bears now live in a natural habitat

Wild Ireland is delighted to be working with international animal charities rescuing animals in need. By supporting responsible organisations you are contributing to the welfare and care of wild animals and conservation.

On a journey of healing, the bears now exhibit natural behaviors

It is all of our responsibilities to work together to protect bears and their natural habitats. When on holiday, please do not support animal attractions that exploit animals for profit.

Do your research before you visit an animal attraction. Make sure that they are working positively towards animal conservation, education or animal rescue. There are too many people exploiting animals for profit. If you see a bear that is being mistreated please report the sighting at


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