Killing of Romania’s largest bear reignites bear overpopulation debate

An Austrian prince mistakenly shot the bear back in March

editor: REMIX NEWS
author: Dénes Albert

Animal protection groups in Romania are up in arms after NGO Agent Green announced on Wednesday that back in March, Austrian Prince Emanuel von und zu Liechtenstein mistakenly shot what was is thought to have been Europe’s largest bear.

The prince had a permit to shoot a female bear with cubs which had been pestering Transylvanian settlements in mountainous Kovászna county, but instead shot Arthur, who never even ventured near any settlements.

“Arthur was 17 years old and was the largest bear observed in Romania and probably the largest living in the European Union. The corpse’s measurements indicate that Arthur had 593 points out of 600, the maximum possible in the trophy hunting industry. I have never heard of such a record score before,” said Gabriel Paun, the president of Agent Green. “I wonder how the prince could confuse a female with cubs coming to the village with the largest male that existed in the depths of the forest. It is clear that the prince did not come to solve the problem of the locals but to kill the bear and take home the biggest trophy to hang it on the wall. We are dealing with game poaching since they shot the wrong bear.”

The brown bear is a species strictly protected by EU law and the Berne Convention. Derogations are exceptions that occur in extreme cases on a case-by-case basis, after a thorough assessment of the situation, and the lethal method is the last resort when alternatives (including relocation) have failed and the problem bear endangers human lives and households. The European Commission has approved a budget for member states to compensate immediately and fairly any farmers who suffer damage on their own land or in areas where they have a contract to practice agriculture.

According to the latest estimates, Romania has twice as many bears as their natural habitat can support (number vary from 6,500 to 7,200) and in recent years, bears foraging for food have become an everyday occurrence in Transylvanian villages and even towns, with hardly a week passing without bear sightings. In 2019 alone, bear attack victims have been granted RON 140 million (€28.4 million) in compensations which the Romanian state has yet to transfer.

Romanian Environmental Minister Barna Tánczos, a member of the ethnic Hungarian party RMDSZ, said that while the ministry would prefer relocation to hunting, the country’s pleas to other EU member states to take in part of their excessive bear population have fallen on deaf ears.

“I would like a negotiation with the states of Europe. There was a first relocation attempt in other member states. The first answer was no. Because some say that they exterminated the population a hundred years ago and no longer have any specimens and don’t want to have them again,” Tánczos said. “Austria says that the last specimen was hunted a hundred years ago and for tourists their re-introduction would only lead to problems on a local level.”    

Title image: Arthur, the mistakenly shot brown bear. (source: agentgreen.ro)


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