Bear hunt launched in France after rescue cub escapes from village

A malnourished bear cub found wandering alone through a French village last week has escaped from the home of its appointed carer, triggering a major search, local authorities said Monday.

Bear hunt launched in France after rescue cub escapes from village
Bears are sometimes spotted living wild in the French mountains. Photo: AFP

The cub, believed to be about five months old, has very little chance of survival unless found in the coming hours, according to authorities in Tarn, a southwestern region in the French Pyrenees.

Weighing a mere 8kg, it presents “no danger to humans,” officials said in a statement.

SEE ALSO VIDEO: French farmers v wolves and bears in a battle for livelihood

The bear was found in south west France. Photo: Préfecture of Ariège

The little bear, which was separated from its mother before being weaned, was very weak when found in Couflens, a village on the French-Spanish border. 

After being caught by agents from France's national hunting and wildlife agency ONCFS, it was taken in by a person licensed to keep wild animals.

Saint-Pierre-de-Trivisy, about 100 km east of Toulouse.

No details about how the cub escaped were immediately available.

A team of 12, including three ONCFS wildlife experts, were searching for the animal on Monday.

The authorities appealed for information on any sightings. 

About 50 brown bears live on the French side of the Pyrenees mountains that straddle the border with Spain. 

France began reintroducing bears from Slovenia about 20 years ago, despite opposition from local farmers, after the native population was hunted to near extinction.

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Spain and France call urgent meeting to decide fate of sheep-killing Pyrenees bear

A female bear airlifted to the French Pyrenees a few months ago to bolster the local bear population has wandered into Spain’s Navarre and killed eight sheep.

Spain and France call urgent meeting to decide fate of sheep-killing Pyrenees bear
Photo: Deposit Photos

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.