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News 30 Aug 17

Romanian Minister Plans to Allow Bear Hunts

The Romanian environment minister said that despite a ban in 2016, she is determined to permit the hunting of dangerous bears and wolves after a rising number of attacks in populated areas.

Ana Maria Touma
BIRN
Bucharest
A Romanian brown bear. Photo: www.wwf.ro

Romania’s Environment Minister Gratiela Gavrilescu announced on Tuesday that she is to issue a special order this week that would allow the killing of bears and wolves deemed dangerous, despite opposition from activists.

The move comes a year after Romania banned the trophy hunting of all brown bears, wolves, lynx and wildcats, following mounting opposition to the practice which had surged in recent years.

The order published on the environment ministry website allows authorities to permit the hunting and killing of a maximum of 140 bears and 79 wolves in the country until the end of 2017.

They can be hunted down if they are deemed dangerous to people or have damaged property or livestock, and only if there is no other solution.

“The number of large carnivores, bears especially, exceeds 7,000 in Romania, and that’s why I had the courage to take responsibility to sign a ministerial order that was very well negotiated with NGOs and all the local authorities that have encountered problems with these large carnivores,” Gavrilescu said.

“It doesn’t matter who is going to protest in front of the ministry,” she added.

Romanian authorities have reported scores of people wounded by bears in search of food over the past two years.

Most cases occur in mountainous areas in Harghita, Mures, Covasna and Brasov counties in south-eastern Transylvania.

On July 20, the environment ministry organised what turned out to be a heated debate on the proposed relaxation of the ban with stakeholders, including local administration representatives, hunters’ associations, and environmental organizations.

According to the minutes published on the ministry’s website, local authorities from the affected counties strongly advocated that the move be approved.

However, wildlife organisations say that the document provides a vague definition of what a dangerous situation might be, which be subject to interpretation and even allow trophy hunting.

Several NGOs present at the debate also advocated the relocation of bears from overpopulated areas to other EU countries, but the authorities said the cost is too high.

The Carpathian Mountains are home to the largest population of bears and wolves in Europe. But since the country joined the European Union in 2007, a multi-million dollar hunting industry has developed in the country, with specialist agencies charging hunters as much as 10,000 euros per trip.

The 2016 ban angered hunters, but also farmers who were left without any means to defend their property from stray bears in search of food.

According to WWF Romania, which has a special programme for the protection of large carnivores and their habitat, the minister’s order is just a compromise solution that will only work for a short period of time.

The country needs an urgent integrated strategy to deal with bear and wolf populations, WWF Romania said in a statement.

It pointed out that authorities also need a scientific method to count the animals and that the current number might have been exaggerated.

It said that it has proved since 2014 that in certain areas of central and eastern part of Romania the bear population appears to grow four times faster than anywhere else in the world.

In south-western Romania, managers of the hunting units themselves have admitted that some bears might be counted several times as they move across the territory.

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