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No more bears for Pyrenees

Plans for reintroductions of new bears to the French Pyrenees are being shelved by the Ecology Ministry

PLANS to reintroduce more bears into the Pyrenees will be abandoned, says Ecology Minister Chantal Jouanno.

Following news that two new cubs were born last winter, the minister is hoping the bear population will sustain itself naturally without bringing in new bears from areas like Slovenia, which has been done in the past.

France’s bears had almost died out by the 1990s, leading to the reintroduction programme – a measure supported by wildlife lovers but often opposed by farmers, who accuse the bears of attacking flocks.

There are still only around 20 bears, not enough to ensure the population is viable according to bear supporters, and the government had previously supported further reintroductions.

In recent years two reintroduced bears died, one hit by a vehicle and another that fell off a cliff. Also, the last native female, Cannelle, was shot by a hunter.

“Natural growth works. We will monitor them annually. If we see the population is going down we could have a reintroduction plan but let’s do it calmly and serenely otherwise people will say biodiversity and ecology is in opposition to mankind and I don’t want that,” said Chantal Jouanno.

However if bears are killed by humans they will be replaced, she said. Therefore one new female will be introduced to the Pyrénées-Atlantiques next year, where Cannelle was killed several years ago and where the population consists of just three males.

According to supporters of the bears there needs to be at least 50 in the Pyrenees for their population to be viable.

Photo: Pays de l'Ours - Adet

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