The European Commission has asked French authorities to “at a minimum” replace three brown bears killed by human interference in the Pyrénées mountain range in 2020.
A group of 28 French and Spanish wildlife associations had complained to the Commission on January 8 about the matter.
On Wednesday (January 27), the associations received a reply from the Commission stating that it had “already indicated to the French authorities that the replacement of the three killed bears seems at a minimum necessary”.
Three brown bears died from human interference last year in the Pyrénées. The first, named Cachou, was poisoned in Catalonia in April 2020, the second was shot in Ariège in June and the third, named Sarousse, was shot in Aragon on November 29, 2020.
The presence of brown bears in the Pyrénées has been a controversial issue since their reintroduction to the area more than 20 years ago.
There has been an ongoing dispute between farmers, who complain about bears killing livestock, and conservationists who want to protect the species. This debate has been dubbed the “bear wars”.
There are an estimated 50 bears in the Pyrénées, a number that experts say will not guarantee the survival of the species.
In 2019, 1,250 sheep were killed by bears in Ariège, Le Monde newspaper reported.
France adopted a 10-year plan in 2018 aiming to reintroduce more bears to the Pyrénées.
The EU Commission, in its response to the demand by the group of associations, referenced France’s commitment to this plan.
It said that France should replace the three bears “in light of the unfavourable conservation status of bears in France” and “regarding reintroductions and the provisions of the plan d’actions Ours brun 2018-2028”.
One of the associations that complained to the Commission, Pays de l’Ours - Adet, wrote that it hoped that the EU’s reminder will “make it possible, beyond the rhetoric, to obtain in practice the replacement of the bears killed and the respect of the national and international texts in place”.