No more shooting to scare Pyrenees bears, French court rules

No more shooting to scare Pyrenees bears, French court rules
Tensions over the presence of brown bears in the Pyrenees have run high for decades. Photo: AFP
Livestock owners in the French Pyrenees can no longer fire warning shots to scare off endangered bears, a court ruled on Friday, handing a victory to animal rights groups who warned of the risk of accidental deaths.

Tensions over the presence of brown bears in mountains separating France and Spain have run high since a re-introduction effort was launched in the mid-1990s.

Farmers were furious when the government stepped up its efforts with a 10-year “bear plan” in 2018, mounting fierce protests when the first female was brought in by helicopter that year.

They say the warning shots are needed to keep the predators from killing sheep and other livestock or destroying bee hives, and authorities began allowing them on a trial basis in 2019.

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But the State Council, the country's top administrative court, struck down the measure after around a dozen pro-bear associations filed a complaint.

It said warning shots are not compatible with “maintaining the populations in their natural environment.”

Contacted by AFP, the environment ministry did not immediately comment.

In a joint statement, the associations welcomed the ruling, saying the decree “made it possible to get around the ban on intentionally disturbing a protected species.”

Three bears were killed in the Pyrenees last year, including one by a hunter who said he acted in self-defence.

In January, the European Commission called on France to rapidly carry out new re-introductions to replace them, as called for in its “bear plan.”

 
There are about 50 bears currently in the Pyrenees, and French officials have said early indications point to a reduction in the number of livestock killed by them last year, after 1,173 animals were killed and 36 bee hives destroyed in 2019.
 

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  1. Yet another law then that doesn’t affect the people that made it. So how is one suppose to move the bears on, shout boo or use an air horn and get fined for making a noise.

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