A female bear has been spotted in a village in the eastern county of Galati, officials there said.
The animal was seen near a melon farm in the northwest of the county in what authorities said was the first-ever sighting of a bear in the area.
The sighting comes amid a fierce debate over how to manage the country’s bear population which officially stands at 6,000.
Environmentalists want to protect the animals. But farmers and others say they are killing livestock and have attacked people and should be controlled.
Romania banned hunting in 2016. However, it is possible to get a hunting permit if a particular animal has harmed people or animals.
Thew sighting of the bear in an area which is not its natural habitat is likely to lead to more calls to scrap the hunting ban.
The Galati Association of Anglers and Hunters said bear tracks had also been found near a forest in the county.
Authorities said the bear had probably descended from the Vrancea Mountains in search of food, Radio Iasi reported.
„The sow crossed into Galati county. From what we know, it is currently located on private land in Vrancea County,” said Adrian Alexandru, who heads the Galati branch of the hunters’ association.
“ It is the first time to our knowledge that a bear has been reported in Galati,” he added.
The bear population became a hot topic after a Liechtenstein prince shot a large bear called „Arthur” in March. The killing sparked an uproar in Romania and beyond.
Environment Minister Barna Tanczos, who supports hunting, said last month that he would ask the European Commission help Romania manage its bear population.
The director of Galati’s Museum of Natural Sciences Museum said the bear came from the nearby mountains, where an estimated 400 bears live, to look for food.
The Vrancea Mountains are a mountain range in the eastern part of Vrancea county. The last major earthquake in 1977 had its epicenter there.
„Bears tracks have been reported in the Buciumeni forest area. In Galati’s history there have never been reports of bears especially because it is not a mountainous area,” said Madalin Serban, curator of the Galati Natural Sciences Museum.
He said the animal was “looking for food, and breeding areas for raising its cubs, especially as the area is very quiet,” and it won’t be disturbed.