Bulgaria Allows Bear Hunting, Armenia Takes Gentler Approach to Ursine Raids on Fields and Orchards

eurasian brown bear photo

A Eurasian brown bear at a zoo in England. Photo: Scott Baverstock / Creative Commons.

With hungry brown bears posing a nuisance to farmers in Armenia and Bulgaria, the two countries have taken dramatically opposing measures to solve the problem, with one legalizing hunting and the other organizing "night patrols" to protect both animals and crops.Following a number of bear attacks on flocks and beehives in the country's southern mountains -- and the killing of one man by a brown bear over the summer -- the Bulgarian Parliament voted late last month to allow 3 percent to 8 percent of Bulgaria's brown bears to be hunted.

Bulgarian environmentalists decried the move as catering to hunting lobbies, saying that the country's estimated bear population of 600 to 800 animals -- one of the largest in Europe -- has not been verified.

Peaceful Night Patrols to Protect Orchards, Bears
Faced with a similar problem, a region in southern Armenia is taking a decidedly different tack. Bears in the Syunik region have been invading local fruit gardens, causing significant damage to shrubbery and trees while they raid grape, fig, and pomegranate crops. But instead of bringing out the shotguns, local residents -- and the area's Arevik National Park -- have gotten behind a proposal by the World Wildlife Fund's Armenian branch to scare the bears away, while providing a few jobs at the same time.

"Six residents of Nrnadzor, Shvanidzor, and Alvank villages are paid 200 euros each to protect orchards before the end of the harvesting in late November, using whistles and special signals during night-watches and hope to drive the bears back to forests," ArmeniaNow reported. "Employees of Arevik National Park, who deal with security issues of animals in the region, will support them."

Environmentalists hope the effort will help protect the area's 50 remaining brown bears.

"We must preserve that species in Armenia, preventing unfavorable, but evidently possible illegal hunting by peasants," said Arthur Khoyetsyan of WWF Armenia. "We must also support communities, to protect their orchards from damages done by bears."

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