Disgruntled farmers in Spain’s northern Navarre region have forced Spanish and French authorities to call an urgent meeting to decide what can be done about Claverina, one of two Slovenian bears brought to the countries’ shared Pyrenees mountain range in October 2018.
The female bear is believed to be behind the killing of one sheep in France and eight in the Navarre valleys of Roncar and Salazar.
Representatives from Aragón and Catalonia, two other Spanish regions with small bear populations, will join Navarre and French authorities on Friday at an emergency summit at the Ministry of Environmental Transition.
The arrival of the carnivore mammals in October had already been criticised by local livestock farmers on both sides of the border, fearful that their flocks would add more zeros to a bear death count already in the hundreds, but still not as high as that for wolves.
“We’ll push the bears out, scare them, make them run away,” one farmer told reporters back then, accusing Spanish and French authorities of turning a blind eye to their concerns.
Similar efforts to curb sheep killings by bears include the “re-education” of Goiat, a male that was also brought over from Slovenia and that has killed several sheep in Catalonia.
Although environmental authorities haven’t disclosed what the retraining of the animal would entail, as well as having to wait for it to wake up from its hibernation period, the process would involve assessing Goiat’s danger levels.
If experts agreed that it was too aggressive for anything to be done, the bear would be removed, the first one to be expelled from the Pyrenees since the launch of the EU’s bear repopulation project Pyroslife 2015-2018.
“The problem isn’t the bears themselves but rather their coexistence with human activities,” Ferran Miralles, head of Catalonia’s Environment department, told Spanish daily El País.
“We are the ones that have to learn to live with the bear.”
Spain’s bear population currently stands at around 300, all located in Spain’s northern mountain regions.
There are 250 in Asturias and parts of León, 40 around Palencia, 40 in Lleida in Catalonia and 4 roaming around Aragon’s Huesca province and Navarre, two of which are the bears that crossed over from France in recent months.
The same debate is raging in neighbouring France, as this video report by The Local France explains.