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Orcières (Municipality, Hautes-Alpes, France)

Last modified: 2005-03-05 by
Keywords: hautes-alpes | orcieres | bear (blue) |
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[Flag of Orcieres]by Arnaud Leroy

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Presentation of Orcières

The village of Orcières is located in the Southern Alps, in the upper valley of the river Drac, which forms a region called Champsaur. The ancient name of the village is Oursières, which is a direct reference to the bears (ours), common in the past in the Alps.

Brown bears (Ursus arctos) were common in all French mountainous areas in the Middle Ages; they disappeared from the Vosges in the beginning of the XIXth century, and could then be found only in the Alps, the Pyrénées and the Jura. In the beginning of the XXth century, the bear remained common only in the Pyrénées and locally in the Alps, where the last bear was spotted in 1937. Since then, the French bear populations have dramatically decreased: 150-200 in 1937, 70 in 1954, 50 in 1964, 25 in 1975, 15-20 in 1985, and 10-11 in 1992.
Bears are legally protected in France since 1972, but are a matter of controversy in the Pyrénées. A few bears from Slovenia were introduced in the Pyrénées in the 1990s in order to increase the population and its genetical diversity. The bear dispute unfortunately reached new low in automn 2004, when the last adult Pyrenean bear was killed by a hunter, allegely beating for boars in spite of official warnings (including by hunters' organizations) of the presence of the bear in the area.

The ski resort of Orcières-Merlette (1,850-2,725 m) is located 5 km above the village of Orcières. It has 29 ski-lifts, serving 44 runs, for a total length of 85 km. The resort has also cross-country ski trails (20 km).

Ivan Sache, 8 November 2004

Municipal flag of Orcières

The flag of Orcières, as reported by Dominique Cureau, is white with the logotype of the village in the middle. The logotype shows a white bear outlined in blue, with a yellow bear's footprint in the background.

According to Brian Timms, the local Société d'Etudes des Hautes-Alpes, proposed around 1974 a municipal coat of arms, which was not accepted by the municipality. The coat of arms was:

D'argent au chef de gueules, à l'ours entier de sable tenant de ses pattes de devant une couronne d'or brochant sur le tout.

In English:
Argent a chief gules overall a bear rampant sable holding in his front paws a crown or.

This were the arms of the Orcières family, the local branch of the lords of Montorcier in the XIIth century.

Ivan Sache, 8 November 2004