Le projet Ourse Tolosa

Through a bear’s eyes, by an embedded video camera

Dans les yeux de l'ourse via une caméra embarquée

A wild Slovenian female bear filmed all of her movements for one month! This precious bank of moving images helps us understand the behaviour of this wild animal. The Museum of Toulouse (MHNT) and Blizzard Productions set up a project using an embedded video camera combined with a GPS collar and an accelerometer: a unique experiment in Europe on a wild bear! The aim of this project is to compile the natural behaviour of the female bear on video and therefore further scientific knowledge about bears in general, while raising public awareness on this species. In addition to equipping a European brown bear with a camera for the first time, the originality of this project lies in the length of the sequences recorded (5 minutes per hour, 12 hours per day, from 7 am to 6 pm, for 20 days: that’s over 20 hours of film in total), making it possible for the general public to really get inside the skin of a bear, see through its eyes, and experience its movements.

Two years of work were necessary before this original project could be carried out in October 2013.

Setting up the project: a bear, a high-tech collar, and French and Slovenian teams of scientists

Ourse slovène Tolosa avec son collier GPS, caméra embarquée et accéléromètre

Tolosa the Bear, Slovenia 2013. Copyright Michel Tonelli-Blizzard Productions.

An adult female bear, about 4 or 5 years old and weighing 80 kg, was captured in the Jelen reserve in south-eastern Slovenia on 6 October 2013 by the Slovenian team of Marko Jonozovic, head of the country’s bear control team, and the French team (Henri Cap, the museum’s zoologist and project instigator, and Michel Tonelli, Blizzard Productions, who made the filming possible). The young female was equipped with an embedded system comprising a collar and a video camera. The bear was named Tolosa, in homage to the city of Toulouse.

collier ourse tolosaThe GPS data transmitter, and an accelerometer measuring the bear’s movements, are located on the upper part of the collar (Lotek), which was provided by the Hubert Curien Pluridisciplinary Institute (IPHC/CNRS) in Strasbourg. The video camera is located around the animal's neck in the frontal part of the collar, and can store up to 22 hours of film.


The GPS and VHF signal were tested before it left the “Wild fauna ecology and behaviour” laboratory (CEFS/INRA) in Auzeville.


All of Tolosa’s journeys were monitored successfully (one GPS location every 30 mins). The video camera, activated on 6 October, filmed throughout October and was recovered by Michel Tonelli and the Slovenian team when the collar dropped off as intended on 4 November at 6:30 am (scheduled drop-off).


20 hours of video recordings

The video sequences were viewed in January 2014 (8,000 10-second files), then edited at the Museum.


To discover in images:


 The video sequences of the most remarkable activities:


Tolosa the bear eats: (click on one of the foodstuffs below to display the corresponding video)
... beechnuts
 ...beech leaves

... sloe berries, while standing up

... a wasp nest

... false medlar berries

... ant pupae and beetle larvae

... whitebeam berries

... whitebeam berries then...

... drinks from a hollow in a tree trunk


Tolosa the bear: (click on one of the activities below to display the corresponding video)

... balancing on a tree

... knocking down dead trees

... grabbing the tibia bone of a cervid




Tolosa the bear: 

... climbs a tree then immediately goes down

moves from rock to rock

... sprints and climbs to a rocky ridge

... descends a cliff

... steps over a tree and scratches her back against it

... runs after having been startled


Tolosa the bear: 

... wakes up and stretches

... rests at the top of a tree

... is troubled by a fly in her sleep

... lies on her side and snores, breathing on the plants

... falls asleep on her back, looking up at the sky

... sits down and sticks her tongue out



Tolosa the bear:

... looks around and sniffs in a beech forest

... contemplates the valley down below

looks at a sparrow that lands to her left


Tolosa the bear:

...watches a car go past

...walks on a road

...walks in the forest, looks at a cabin and runs away

...sniffs a food tin

...carefully approaches to cabin




Or a reconstructed full day: 

This is a series of video sequences put together to illustrate a typical day in the life of the bear Tolosa.

- a lot of time spent moving around and/or feeding from 7 am to 9 am, 

- then a period of rest (recordings of Tolosa dreaming) until 3 pm 

- with more activity from 4 pm until 6 pm.


The GPS readings (every 30 mins) show a lot of activity during the night when most of the long trips are made (up to 12 km).


videos cc by-sa Museum of Toulouse-Blizzard productions-Parc animalier des Pyrénées 


The images will also be used by the project’s three main partners (Blizzard Productions, the Argelès-Gazost Animal Park in the Pyrenees which financed the capture, and the Slovenian forestry commission) and may accompany the “Bears, Myths and Realities” exhibition on its travels. The collar and the video camera are part of the Museum’s collections and are being exhibited for a few weeks in a cabinet in the main hall.



So the behaviour of Tolosa could be analysed as best possible, a team of specialists (MHNT, INRA/CEFS, ONCFS, CNRS/IPHC) was formed to work on all of the data collected (video sequences, GPS readings, accelerometer, altitude and temperature) and publish the results. The behaviour analysed confirms that described in scientific literature, for the most part.




The point of this adventure, in addition to the scientific aspect, was to forge links between men and women beyond institutions and borders, as well as with Tolosa, a worthy representative of a species that is still little-known here in France. The project coincided with a ministerial circular questioning the role of the bear when it come to the biodiversity of the Pyrenees.


Article written by Henri Cap, Zoologist at the Museum of Toulouse. Published online on 9 April 2014.


Video editing: Museum of Toulouse. 


To Tolosa, Michel Tonelli (Blizzard Productions), Serge Mounard (Argelès-Gazost animal park in the Pyrenees), Marko Jonozovic (Slovenian forestry commission), Georges Gonzalez and Tanguy Dausfrene (CEFS/INRA Auzeville), Pierre-Yves Quenette and Jean-Jacques Camarra (ONCFS), Yves Handrich (CNRS/IPHC Strasbourg) and to the teams at the Museum of Toulouse.