AROUND SLOVAKIA

Bear census postponed after agreement is delayed

A PROJECT to count all the bears in Slovakia has been delayed and may only be launched fully this spring. State Nature Protection (ŠOP), the body in charge of the project, had intended for it to begin in the autumn but instead waited for the signing of an agreement with the Environment Ministry that was only completed in mid December. Both Vladimír Antal of ŠOP and ministry spokesperson Jana Kaplanová confirmed the details to the ČTK newswire. The ministry is waiting for the census results in order to resolve an argument about the number of bears living in Slovakia: environmentalists claim there are too few of them, while forest managers claim there are too many.

Still snowing: Bears sometimes wake early from their winter hibernation.Still snowing: Bears sometimes wake early from their winter hibernation. (Source: Sme - Ján Krošlák)

A PROJECT to count all the bears in Slovakia has been delayed and may only be launched fully this spring. State Nature Protection (ŠOP), the body in charge of the project, had intended for it to begin in the autumn but instead waited for the signing of an agreement with the Environment Ministry that was only completed in mid December. Both Vladimír Antal of ŠOP and ministry spokesperson Jana Kaplanová confirmed the details to the ČTK newswire. The ministry is waiting for the census results in order to resolve an argument about the number of bears living in Slovakia: environmentalists claim there are too few of them, while forest managers claim there are too many.

A tender will be held to choose a company that will then take about 3,000 excrement specimens, Antal explained. Based on the droppings and their analysis, the forest managers also want to find out about the health, population structure, population density and genetic fitness of Slovakia’s bears. Fifteen animals will also be caught and given a transmitter. The ŠOP will, however, have to prolong the project and its outcome for one year, until the end of 2013, as the monitoring and research of large wild animals in Slovakia, costing €2.1 million, will be financed from EU funds. The ŠOP now has to wait until spring, as bears hibernate during winter.

On January 25, according to an old Slovak saying, bears turn over in their sleep. January 25 is the Christian holiday of the “Reversing of St. Paul” when bears are supposed to turn from one side to the other. According to Miroslav Saniga from the Research Branch of the Institute of Forest Ecology of the Slovak Academy of Sciences, this saying is hard to prove ‘on site’, but might be true since the end of January usually marks the half-way point in the bears’ hibernation. If left undisturbed, bears typically sleep until March, the TASR newswire wrote.

However, this winter, with its rapid changes in weather and both freezing temperatures and quite warm periods, could prove very difficult for the bears, and some might already have taken a break. Two bears in the Veľká Fatra mountain range and one near Staré Hory awoke during mild weather at the end of 2009.


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