The extensive forests north of Orsa in northern Dalarna, approximately five hours or 400 km northwest of Stockholm, contain plenty of bears but not many people. This sparsely-populated rural region is where Andrea Friebe and Gunther Schmidt live and work. In collaboration with the Scandinavian Brown Bear Research Project, they have been studying bears for many years. The couple serve as a unique interface between the research world and visitors that want to know more about bears in Sweden.
In the forests north of Orsa the bear’s way of life has been studied since 1985. Andrea Friebe and Gunther Schmidt came to Sweden from Germany in the 1990s, and have been participating in the Scandinavian Brown Bear Research Project in various ways since 1998. They now have a role as communicators of new and exciting findings about Swedish bears.
Consequently, for several years now, guided walks have been offered in the forest where the guides take visitors to various winter lairs and show other traces of bear. Close encounters with bears is not on the programme, but the guides give plenty of information about how the bears eat, breed, look after their cubs and survive a long and cold winter. The close and unique relationship with the Scandinavian Brown Bear Research Project guarantees that information is first-hand and up to date, and comes directly from an expert source.
The farm buildings in Kvarnberg on the E45 motorway include both overnight cabins and a permanent bear exhibition. Photos, pictures, diagrams, various tracks and findings from the forest provide plenty of information for visitors about the bear’s diet, social habits, and the remarkable and long winter hibernation.
Disseminating balanced and accurate information about our predators is an important task for Andrea and Gunther. For example, the couple work as expert guides at Orsa Björnpark and have also given talks in schools as part of a programme arranged by the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation. They also help people with a phobia about bears and people who have experienced close and uncomfortable encounters. They help people overcome these fears and experiences by providing factual information about the bear’s activities in the forest.
Andrea and Gunther also take responsibility for the quality of the bear forest. A few years ago, no less than six tonnes of scrap metal was collected from the area around Kvarnberg. They are also looking for partners in the area, even though there are few neighbours. One of the high points of the week is when fresh bread is delivered from the small German bakery that is located even deeper in the dense Orsa forests.