Pyrenees bear found shot dead in southwest France

A wild Pyrenees bear has been found illegally killed in southwest France, prompting the ecology minister to lodge a formal State complaint into the crime.

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The death of the bear was confirmed in the Ariège department (Occitanie) on Tuesday June 9.

Ecology minister Elisabeth Borne said: “A bear was discovered today killed by bullets. Bears are a protected species; this act is illegal and deeply reprehensible. The [local] prefect is on-site. The State will file a complaint.”

Pro-bear association Pays de l’Ours-Adet, which fights for the preservation and continued reintroduction of bears into the French Pyrenees, condemned the killing in a post on its Facebook Page.

It said: “The minister for ecology Elisabeth Borne has just announced that a bear has been killed in Ariège. We will of course lodge a complaint and do everything we can to ensure that this act is both condemned, and repaired.

“No-one has the right to decide the life or death of the bear population. To give up on replacing this [killed] bear would be as if we were proving the poachers right.”

President of the association, Alain Reynès, also issued a statement.

He said: “We condemn this act in the most severe way. Of course we will make a formal complaint. This is poaching; this is a protected species. This is severely punishable by law.

“We ask the minister to announce immediately that this bear will be replaced [in the Pyrenees]. This is laid down by law. To not do it would be to prove the poachers right. We cannot let people impose their point of view by using violence.

“They must understand that there is no way forward in this type of action, which is violent and illegal. We will not simply lodge a complaint. These individuals do not have the right to decide if a bear lives or dies.”

The bear, wolf and lynx protection and conservation association Férus has also condemned the killing.

Férus administrator Patrick Leyrissou said: “Unfortunately the threat from poaching has long-since existed. [This is] scandalous and ridiculous. Ridiculous because the State is seeking to replace all of the bears that have been killed by humans.

“There will therefore need to be a new bear to compensate for this loss, and we are going to demand that anyway. We will also add our voice to the complaint lodged by the Pays de l’Ours association.”

Bear controversy

The release of bears into the Pyrenees is controversial among farming communities, with some saying that the bears are a threat to local farmers’ livestock and livelihoods.

There have also been stories of hikers and campers being threatened, and advice issued on what to do if you come across a bear in the mountains.

France has a European obligation to restore the bear population in the Pyrenees - and has previously been criticised for not doing enough to ensure this - but farmers say that the release of bears has caused rise in attacks on their animals.

In January this year, President Emmanuel Macron visited the Pyrenees town of Pau (Pyrénées-Atlantiques, Nouvelle-Aquitaine), and pledged to stop all bear releases planned for 2018-2028.

Yet, pro-bear groups said that this was not enforceable, and that more bears should be released in this timeframe, “because this is a European obligation”.

At the time, Mr Reynès said: “We have a legal obligation in France to restore a viable [bear] population.”

There are currently about 40-50 bears in the Pyrenees.

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