Special Report filed by AAF Animal Attack Files Special Report
from The Electronic Telegraph

      Pyréneans want foreign bears out
By Patrick Bishop in Paris

March 30, 2000

Bears in the Ariège Pyrénees - Ariège Pyrénees Bears of the Pyrénees [archive of bear articles in French] - La Dépêche du Midi France - Political resources on the Net

FARMERS and politicians in the Pyrénees are demanding that Slovenian bears released into the mountains in an attempt to revive traditional fauna should be deported from France.

Inhabitants of the country's rugged south-western corner are unimpressed by the government's efforts to turn back the ecological clock. To Pyrénean shepherds, the cuddly-looking creatures are a menace that kill their sheep, goats and foals and threaten their livelihood.

A Bill to capture and expel the newcomers was presented to parliament early yesterday, to the dismay of Green deputies who condemned the move as "contrary to nature". Denis Baupin, a Green spokesman, said: "The bear was always part of the landscape of the Pyrénees before it was exterminated."

The stock of indigenous French bears in the mountains dwindled to only six through systematic hunting until the late Fifties. Most experts agree that the species cannot survive without an injection of foreign blood. In 1996, the government introduced three bears from Slovenia, cousins of the Pyrénean variety.

Despite their tiny number, their presence angers local sheep farmers and goat farmers, and getting rid of the bears has been a vote-catching issue for local politicians. Yesterday, Augustin Bonrepaux, Socialist deputy for the Ariège area, who is promoting the Bill, said they were responsible last year for killing 200 sheep, three goats and two foals.

The Bill's supporters claim that for the bears to survive the population will have to grow to 50, making the damage to livestock correspondingly greater.

© Copyright of Telegraph Group Limited 2000.

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