Two protected brown bears have been shot dead on what has been dubbed a ‘dark day’ for efforts to preserve the species.
The adult females were killed on the same day by wild boar hunters in Spain, despite conservation groups working to grow the population from near-extinction.
One of the dead bears, named Sarousse, had originally been captured in Slovenia before being released in the French Pyrenees in 2006.
A hunter claimed to have shot the 21-year-old bear, which had established its own territory, in self-defence during a shoot on the Spanish Aragonese side of the mountain range.
He is said to have opened fire from point-blank range when it advanced on him in an ‘aggressive manner’ after it was disturbed by his dogs.
Another bear was shot in the Palencia mountains, a northern province in the Castile and Leon region. The hunter reportedly claimed he thought the creature was a wild boar.
Both bears were killed in conservation zones, raising questions about why licences to kill legitimate game have been issued in the areas.
Katheryn Wise, wildlife campaigns manager for World Animal Protection, told Metro.co.uk: ‘It’s incredibly sad to hear that two protected brown bears have been killed in an area where conservationists are working hard to safeguard the endangered wildlife population. ‘
‘Those bears were everyone’s heritage’
We question why hunting licences are being granted in a conservation area where this is a risk and call on authorities to immediately review this policy to protect other wild animals from a similar tragedy in future.’
The Spanish Brown Bear Foundation described the deaths as a ‘dark day for brown bear conservation’.
On Facebook, the group warned that deliberate hunting carried penalties of up to three years in prison and called for a review of laws against deliberate hunting of the species. Garcia Paloma replied: ‘It’s time to ask for a review of convictions for these crimes.
‘This is enough. These bears were everyone’s heritage.’ Victoria Korpics runs a sanctuary for orphaned and injured wild boar on an olive farm in Alicante after moving to the city from Cumbria five years ago.
‘Shocking and disgusting’
She told Metro.co.uk: ‘There is a constant battle with hunters who will shoot anything that moves, from little birds to big prey. ‘Seeing bears being shot is shocking and disgusting. ‘The hunters need to enjoy the sport without decimating the wildlife.
‘At least attitudes are changing with the younger generations.’ The Guardia Civil’s wildlife unit is investigating both deaths, which took place on November 29. Environment minister Teresa Ribera said enquiries were taking place to establish the circumstances.
Bears were once critically endangered in Spain and were viewed as pests to be hunted before steps were taken to protect them and grow the population. They became a protected species in 1973 as part of an attempt to grow numbers in the Pyrenees between France and Spain.
Sarousse is one of three bears to have died in the mountain range this year. One was found at the bottom of the ravine and an autopsy on another revealed a bullet impact. Brown bears are not endangered but are considered a ‘high priority’ by the World Wildlife Fund.
They have been hunted for their hides, meat and as big game trophies, but the most serious threat in present times are habitat destruction and persecution, according to the charity.
This article was first published by Metro on 4 December 2020. Lead Image: A brown bear shot dead during a wild boar hunt in the Palencia mountains in northern Spain (Picture: Guardia Civil/Costa Blanca News).
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