Earlier this week, a family visiting the French Riviera from the UK and staying at the Estérel Caravaning campground pedaled their mountain bikes like mad back to their camground at the edge of the Estérel Mountains. They had been enjoying a bike ride in the Estérel when they spotted a bear. A big brown bear, close to the ford named Font du Pommier, by the Roussiveau Forester's house.
The family rushed back and alerted the camground who called police. Police and ONF had the parc closed. They patrolled the grounds with sniffing dogs. No trace of a bear. They called local zoos. No missing bear reported anywhere. They asked the local farmer who lives close-by with her goats. Animals are as calm as the Mediterranean in mid-summer when the Mistral doesn't blow. A helicopter even briefly patrolled over the sites on the lookout for a big brown bear. No bear sign anywhere.
What could have happened? An especially large wild boar crossed the road. The witnesses swear it wasn't just a boar. A person in a bear-suit pulling a prank? Possible, and more likely than an actual bear - the Esterel has not hosted a bear for as long as local memory can remember. In all the years we've hiked the Estérel, we have never either spotted one or heard of someone spotting one.
While the mystery unravels, local foresters keep a keen eye and ear out for bear signs.
As for us, we're always bullish on the gorgeous Esterel.
Bearly afraid? Check out this guide to hiking on the western French Riviera.