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Romania: bear attacks force politicians back to work

July 10, 2024

The mauling of a 19-year-old woman has prompted Prime Minister Ciolacu to summon lawmakers back to Bucharest to address the problem of increased bear attacks. The environment minister has called for higher cull quotas.

A brown bear on a street in Covasna, Romania, a car is seen in the background
Environment Minister Mircea Fechet said in March that 26 people had been killed by bears in Romania over the past 20 yearsImage: Andrei Pungovschi/AFP/Getty Images

The dramatic mauling death of a 19-year-old hiker in Romania's Carpathian Mountains has prompted Marcel Ciolacu, the country's prime minister, to call politicians back from their summer recess for a special parliamentary session to deal with the growing problem of bear attacks.

The young woman was dragged away by the bear according to an individual who immediately contacted emergency services on Tuesday evening.

Mountain rescuers and police recovered the woman's body roughly an hour later, but only after shooting the bear, which they said attempted to attack them when they arrived at the scene.

Romania home to around 8,000 brown bears

Romania is home to Europe's largest brown bear population outside Russia, with an estimated 8,000 of them living there.

With attacks on humans and livestock regularly reported, Environment Minister Mircea Fechet, has called for raising shooting quotas.

In March, Fechet said 26 people had been killed by brown bears in Romania over the past 20 years.  

Battling bear attacks in Romania

Fechet had called for an annual cull quota of 500 bears but the figure was lowered after consultation with other institutions.

Though the government granted the right of local authorities to kill aggressive bears that could not be chased away or relocated, Prime Minister Marcel Ciolacu on Wednesday said, "There will not be a free-for-all on shooting bears in Romania."

Ciolacu did not say when the special parliamentary session would take place, noting only that the aim of the session would be to come up with measures that would help "high-risk" areas.

Encroachment of humans affecting bear behavior

One of the biggest drivers of the trend is largely believed to be human behavior, including urban encroachment into the bears' natural habitat, logging and climate change.

Dumpsters and garbage bins full of human refuse as well as food left on trails by tourists are seen as key factors as well.

Animal rights groups have argued that better preventative measures such as education, electric fences and improved habitat management are the answer to the problem rather than killing more bears.

js/lo (dpa, Reuters)