The increase in the number of bear attacks on livestock in the French Pyrenees is leading to mayors protesting and requiring bear removal. There are about 50 bears in the region as a result of reintroduction efforts. Through those, the government released over a dozen bears coming from Slovenia.
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The number of bear attacks increased from a total of 164 last year to 214 so far this year. The increase coincides with the release of two female bears from Slovenia last year, which further angered farmers and livestock owners that are already bitter about bears living close to their home. Although farmers get a financial compensation for their losses, this does not seem to calm down their outrage.
The conflict between local residents and environmentalists on bears in the Pyrenees has in fact been going on for years. However, the government recognises bears as one of the crucial species to preserve the biodiversity of the region. Therefore, French bears are strictly protected in the region, therefore no hunting is allowed.
Furthermore, the government’s suggestion to keep the sheep locked up at night further annoys the livestock owners. That’s because they feel that this would be the end of the traditional summer pasture shepherding. However, the use of prevention measures such as electic fences and livestock guarding dogs does help with reducing the number of bear attacks. Therefore, although this is a shift from the traditional pasturing methods, it is the only way to achieve human-bear coexistence.