Bear problem? Sack the county administrator

Romania has a severe bear problem. The minister of interior thinks sacking the county administrator is the answer.

On Saturday night a car hit a fully grown brown bear in central Transylvania, on the road between Parajd/Praid and Szováta/Sovata. Fortunately, none of the car’s passengers were injured, but emergency services were called to the site of the accident because one passenger had a panic attack.

The severely injured bear tried to crawl away, but couldn’t. The road was closed, and it took almost 20 hours until traffic was restored. After long suffering, the bear was eventually shot with a tranquilizer gun; when it was established that it had three broken legs, it was shot.

Romanian Minister of Interior Ion Marcel Velea – upon learning of the incident – responded by sacking Hargita (Harghita) county’s state appointed administrator (prefect in the local designation), Jean-Adrian Andrei, for purportedly failing to handle the issue in a swift and efficient manner, although emergency services were on site shortly after the incident and the prefect said they were awaiting government approval to tranquilize the bear.

Due to strict hunting regulations, Romania has a serious bear problem: It currently has an estimated 6,500 to 7,000 bears, twice as many as the environment can sustain. As a consequence, famished bears often roam the streets of villages and even towns in search of food. They only attack when cornered or threatened, but even so, four people have been killed by bears this year and many more have been severely injured.

Most of the bears live in the three counties with a majority or sizable ethnic Hungarian population: Hargita, Kovászna (Covasna) and Maros. In mountainous Hargita County alone, hunting associations estimate the bear population at around 1,900.

Romanian authorities occasionally allow the shooting of some bears, but their hands are bound by European Union’s 1992 Habitats Directive and their numbers can only be reduced by special dispensation from the EU.

The Ministry of Environment – foremost in charge of the issue in Romania – blames Saturday’s debacle on the veterinarian who first responded to the emergency call for not having had a tranquilizer gun on him.


Title image: Bear hit by a car in Romania’s Harghita County ( video capture)

Author: Dénes Albert