It was a spectacle that introduced visitors to a standstill: A brown bear, showing to slumber peacefully with its head resting on its paws, proper in the course of a meandering forest highway in central Romania, accompanied by a number of paper napkins strewn by its facet.
“It is superb,” stated Mike, a 72-year-old Israeli vacationer. “I assumed it may be useless.”
However the bear was resting after a sandwich, certainly one of many thrown by vacationers touring Transylvania to allow them to get an important vacation snap.
In Romania, dwelling to Europe’s largest brown bear inhabitants outdoors Russia, assaults are on the rise because the bears enterprise out of the forests searching for meals, usually introduced by vacationers or left in unsecured rubbish cans.
The issue is pitting herders and farmers in opposition to conservationists, with authorities dramatically upping the variety of bears that may be culled this 12 months by 50% to 220. And a few members of parliament need that quantity doubled.
These pushing for increased quotas paint the bears as a menace and declare their numbers are surging, with the Setting Ministry estimating the inhabitants at 8,000. However specialists counter that outdated, inaccurate strategies are used to rely the species protected by an EU directive to make sure their conservation.
Outcomes of a census utilizing DNA to make sure roaming bears should not counted a number of instances are nonetheless pending.
Conservationists argue it’s doable to handle human-bear battle higher slightly than killing the animals.
A bear descends towards a highway to choose up meals thrown by a truck driver, Covasna, Romania, Sept. 29, 2023. (AFP Picture)
‘Not romantic in any respect’
However a number of locals within the Carpathian Mountains instructed Agence France-Presse (AFP) they have been alarmed by elevated bear sightings.
Fourteen individuals have died and 158 have been injured in assaults between 2016 and 2021, in response to official figures.
Herder Tibor Fekete, who tends 70 cows in mountain pastures close to the highway to Lake Saint Anne, needs bears to be shot. He stated they killed three of his cows this 12 months.
“Bears trigger injury and put our lives in danger,” stated the 40-year-old, who complained of the price of maintaining six canine to guard the herd.
Final month a bear additionally entered a schoolyard in Miercurea Ciuc, 30 kilometers (20 miles) away, and climbed up a tree.
An intervention group killed the animal slightly than chasing it away or tranquilizing it, saying they have been making certain the protection of the varsity’s 1,700-plus pupils.
Bears can nonetheless assault when darted with a tranquilizer, stated Miercurea Ciuc’s Mayor Attila Korodi, a three-time atmosphere minister and advocate of extra culling. “And who takes duty when somebody is harm?”
He stated extra bears had been chased off the city’s streets this 12 months than final.
“I feel Europe sees Romania not solely as some kind of a sanctuary however as a museum the place every little thing should keep as it’s,” Korodi instructed AFP.
“Day-to-day life with bears shouldn’t be romantic in any respect,” he stated.
Trophy looking of bears has been banned in Romania since 2016, and solely “specialised technical personnel” are allowed to shoot the animals.
Lawmakers, led by Barna Tanczos – till lately atmosphere minister and one other proponent of bear culling – have tabled a invoice to permit the killing of practically 500 bears a 12 months.
In any other case, bears will find yourself roaming lowland areas, just like the capital Bucharest, Tanczos claimed, or “bathing within the Danube Delta.”
His claims are challenged by conservationists, who worry the ever-increasing quotas may open the door to trophy looking.
They are saying bears that trigger no bother are being shot.
A bear waits for passing automobiles which may present meals, Covasna, Romania, Sept. 29, 2023. (AFP Picture)
Not removed from Miercurea Ciuc, the small touristy mountain city of Baile Tusnad is trying to grow to be a “bear-smart group.”
“Now we have to know bears will not disappear from this space. But when the bear would not really feel secure, it would not keep on the town,” 36-year-old biologist Istvan Imecs instructed AFP.
He was scathing of vacationers – foreigners and Romanians alike – who fed bears, which is against the law.
With recommendation from Imecs and conservation teams like WWF, the city is testing bear-proof garbage containers and has put in 400 electrical fences round homes and bins.
There’s additionally an app explaining how you can keep away from battle with the animals.
From 50 injury complaints filed in 2021, the city has seen the quantity drop to zero in 2022 and 2023.
Laci, a resident who solely gave his first identify, put in an electrical fence years in the past.
“Anybody in Tusnad who says he isn’t frightened of bears is both a liar or silly,” the 47-year-old stated.
“We simply obtained used to residing collectively. There is not any different means.”