Romania’s environment ministry has issued an authorization for the shooting of 13 bears in one area of Transylvania, prompting criticism from environmental groups.
Local environment protection agency official Gheorghe Neagu said the hunting would be allowed after the bear population in Covasna county reached 1,800, posing a safety risk to the local population and animals.
“With the arrival of spring, bears have become active again,” he said, naming four villages that had been affected.
“A year ago, we had an estimated 1,800 bears in Covasna. Even 1,600 or 1,400 would be a lot (for us), and the number is increasing every year,” he added.
Cristian Papp of World Wildlife Fund however warned that culling the bears would only solve problems in the short term and authorities needed to adopt other measures.
„We all agree that an intervention is required if bears go into places where people live and pose a real danger to people and property. But there is no proper methodology, so it’s not clear that these 13 bears are actually problematic. They could just be trophies,” he told Europa FM.
„Authorities should make systems that prevent this unwanted interaction with bears. Bear proof trash cans could be used in … tourist resorts” like they do in Slovenia and Croatia. “We aren’t seeing measures put in place to prevent bear attacks, say on sheep, but we need to avoid encroaching on bears’ habitats.”
Romania has an estimated 6,000 brown bears, more than any other country in the European Union although the figures are disputed.
Environmental groups say there are only 2,000, while hunting associations put the figure closer to 10,000.
TSome ransylvanian residents say they frequently receive ‘bear alerts’ about animals that have wandered into populated areas. Last year, a jogger was attacked in Covasna county and needed hospital treatment.
Environment Minister Barna Tanczos, who is in favor of hunting, backed an ordinance that allows bears that cause damage or wander into populated areas to be culled or relocated.
In 2016, Romania banned the trophy hunting of bears and wolves. However, the government can allow exemptions in special cases.