Romania made a mistake in 2016 when it decided not to interfere with the development of its bear population, Minister of Environmental Protection Barna Tánczos said in an AGERPRES interview. The minister also emphasized that estimating the population of the big game is the first step to solving the issue.
Romania made a bad decision in 2016 when it decided not to interfere at all in the development of its bear population, as it could be predicted even then that this attitude would lead to a slow but certain increase in the population of the great predator, which sits at the top of the food chain, the minister explained. Tánczs also added that in 2016, approximately 10,800 bears lived in the territory of Romania, but they will publish a call for a tender to estimate the number of bears living in the country today. Most probably, the survey will be done in the second half of the year, Tánczos said. Until then, existing intervention quotas can be used to remove or shoot bears that cause damage. The minister also mentioned that both intervention and stock depletion are expected.
“The lack of intervention will lead to great problems. Inaction is not a solution. To observe from a distance and say it might be good or not as good, accidents may or may not happen, bears might or might not show up on ski slopes. This is not a solution,” the minister stressed. According to the politician, bears should be protected, as well as their natural habitats, but the protection of humans is the top priority. “We cannot get to a place when half of the bear population leaves their natural habitats; we cannot wake up to them roaming in our settlements, schoolyards, hills and meadows. However, we are almost there!” Barna Tánczos added.
The minister of environmental protection also said in the interview that 17 European countries have indicated in writing that they do not want to take any bears from Romania. “You should take care of practically the entire bear population of the EU. Do not disturb the bears, but we do not want any of them,” Barna Tánczos summed up the attitude of other EU countries. The minister also added, in every country where bears live, the country is allowed to intervene in the big game population per EU regulations. However, Romania will need to intervene in other cases as well: It needs to pursue preventive intervention and interventions following bear attacks as well. “We cannot wait until bears on ski slopes, bears on roads and bears in towns are a normal incident,” Tánczos said.
In Romania, bear populations have exploded after the Cioloș government banned bear hunting, which was used to help control the population in 2016. Previously, the Ministry of Environmental Protection allowed the hunting of 400-450 bears. According to the estimate requested by the ministry, approximately 6,450–7,200 bears lived in the wilderness of Romania in 2019. However, according to the 2018 action plan for the conservation of the bear population, the optimal number of large carnivores, from an ecological, social and economic point of view, in the 69,000-square-kilometer habitat would be 4,000.
In the last five years, seven people have died from bear attacks and 54 have been hospitalized. Road accidents caused by bears have also been common.
Title image: Bears at the bear-watching station near Gyergyószentmiklós/Gheorgheni. Photo: Medveles Erdélyben