OWING to quarrels between environmentalists and forest keepers about the number of bears in Slovakia, the State Forest Protection (ŠOP) agency has begun preparations to count them and hopes to finance the project from European Union funds.
Some estimates put Slovak bear numbers at 700 to 900. Forest keepers say this is too many and say hunters are eager to shoot them, while environmentalists want the bear population to be maintained at current levels.
The animals should be counted mainly through DNA taken from their excrement.
“We have already performed a bear census in the Veľká Fatra mountains, as this was not so financially demanding,” Vladimír Antal of the ŠOP told the ČTK newswire about the agency's experiences with bear counting.
“But we need to confirm this result by another method, and to make the counting more extensive, for the whole Slovakia, and double-check and test all of the results. We therefore need resources from EU funds.”
The Slovak Environment Ministry plans to decide on the project, Research and Monitoring of Big Predators and Wild Cats in Slovakia, by the end of September. If approved, a contract for financial contribution will then be signed.
Antal fears that if it is not signed soon, the ŠOP will have too short a time to fulfil the task. It wants to start the project, estimated to be worth €2.1 million, by this winter, and to finish it by the end of 2012.