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Roaming Bears Spark Calls for Emergency in North Macedonia

A government-formed crisis committee is to discuss declaring state of emergency in and around the Mavrovo national park to help villagers who say they are scared of intruding bears, while animal protectionists say they fear a pending mass bear hunt.

“Instead of taking this problem seriously, consulting with experts, and finding a painless solution that doesn’t involve death, the authorities are leaning towards a mass killing of more than half of the bear population”, the Skopje-based Association for Animal Protection, Anima Mundi, wrote on Monday. concerning the Mavrovo park.

The immediate reason for the warning was a statement of the head of the Crisis Management Directorate, Stojance Angelov, who, after visiting one village in the region, on Friday hinted that it was either the bears or the people.

“Our goal is not to shoot these noble animals. We love bears, but we love people more,” Angelov said, claiming that bears have been spotted barging into people’s property, stealing their food, ruining bee farms and attacking their livestock.

According to Angelov, the number of brown bears in the region has doubled from 80 to some 160.

But Anima Mundi says that even if half of the bears are killed, based on what they say is a false assumption that the bear population has swollen, that won’t solve the problem, as there will be nothing to prevent the other half from intruding in settlements, again driven by the ruin of their natural habitat with illegal deforestation and lack of food caused by droughts as a consequence of global warning.

They propose educating the locals on how to live near the wild animals, how to deter them and not attract them with their waste, which cay be seen in illegal dump yards in the region.

Villagers from the mountainous Mavrovo region have been asking for a state of emergency for several months, insisting they are scared for their safety and for their children who often walk trough the woods to reach schools.

But so far, no bear attack on human has been reported.

And some have arguably taken matters into their own hands. Police are still investigating who killed a mother bear and her two cubs and dumped them in an illegal garbage dump near the local village of Zhirovnica at the end of August.

Authorities seem to have been caught off-guard and have failed to clarify what exactly a state of emergency would mean, and whether it would involve killing bears.

On Saturday, Agriculture Minister Blagoj Bocvarski was vague and told the media that the problem is “complex” as the area is a national park where various jurisdictions intertwine, and a new draft law on hunting, which is already in parliament, could offer a legal solution.

On one hand he said the new draft would clarify what to do when wild animals endanger settlements, but on the other hand he said that “we should also have the human aspect in mind”, without specifying what actions will be taken on the ground.

The brown bear has been protected by law in the country since 1996 and in the national park of Mavrovo that means that killing bears is prohibited.

The current Law on hunting says the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Water Economy may give a permit for hunting protected animals only after a positive opinion from the Environment Ministry.

Source : Balkan Insight