A local French hunting federation has called for protests after reports emerged that several people were arrested by police over an incident in November in which a hunter shot and killed a bear that attacked him.
A group of hunters were patrolling around Seix, a commune in the southwestern department of Ariège, on November 20 last year when one of the team was attacked by a female bear which had cubs nearby.
The 70-year-old was reportedly dragged for 15 metres by the animal before he fired on it and killed it. An autopsy confirmed the bear died almost immediately.
Six days after the incident, the public prosecutor’s office in nearby Foix opened a judicial investigation into the incident on the grounds of “destruction of a protected species”.
“This hunt took place at least partly in the Mont Valier state reserve. This area is subject to hunting restrictions,” the court judge said of the necessity to investigate.
“Infringements of the environmental code linked to the ban on hunting at the scene of the events are likely to be noted,” the judge added.
On Wednesday (June 1), eight people were reportedly arrested in connection with the incident, although Olivier Mouysset, the public prosecutor in Foix, did not confirm this information to La Dépêche when contacted.
Jean-Luc Fernandez, président of the Ariége hunting association, the Fédération de chasse de l’Ariège, has criticised the arrests.
“These actions are unspeakably violent and the rural world will not remain silent,” he told La Dépêche.
“I find it unacceptable that the hunter who was injured that day, and who is still walking on crutches remained in police custody from 08:00 to 19:00.
“Friday morning (June 3) we invite hunters to join us in front of the gendarmerie in Saint-Girons from 09:00. We will beat the drum.”
France’s bear debate
There are estimated to be around 70 bears in France all in the Pyrenees mountain range.
The presence of brown bears in the Pyrenees has been controversial ever since their re-introduction to the area around 25 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”.