Romania has a severe bear problem, with traffic accidents and bear attacks leading to an ongoing crisis and questions about how to handle the growing bear population.
On Saturday night, a car hit a fully grown brown bear in central Transylvania on the road between Parajd (Praid in Romanian) and Szováta (Sovata).
While none of the car’s passengers were injured, it underlines how bears are starting to overrun the country. Emergency services were called to the site of the accident after one passenger had a panic attack.
The severely injured bear tried to crawl away but was unable to. The road was closed and it took almost 20 hours until traffic was restored. The suffering bear was eventually shot with a tranquilizer gun and after it was established that it had three broken legs, it was shot.
Romanian Minister of Interior Ion Marcel Velea responded to the incident by sacking Hargita county’s state-appointed administrator, Jean-Adrian Andrei, for purportedly failing to handle the issue in a swift and efficient manner. The sacking occurred despite emergency services arriving on-site shortly after the incident. Andrei said much of the delay is due to waiting for 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 supposedly sustain.
As a consequence, famished bears often roam the streets of villages and even towns in search for food. They only attack when cornered or threatened, but even so, four people had been killed by bears this year and many more had been severely injured.
Most of the bears live in the three counties, Hargita, Kovászna and Maros, each with a majority or sizeable ethnic Hungarian community. In mountainous Hargita county alone, hunting associations estimate that there are 1,900 bears.
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 permission from the EU.
The Ministry of Environment, which is responsible for 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 hir by a car in Romania’s Harghita county (news.ro video capture)