Bears in High Tatras get cheeky

Bears have long been present in the Slovak mountains and have been known to be geting ever more bold but at the beginning of April they caused a state of emergency in the High Tatras.

Warning concerning bears are becoming frequent.(Source: Sme)

In the town of the same name, Vysoké Tatry (High Tatras), the town council declared a state of emergency on April 8 due to the frequent appearance of bears in inhabited areas, including five attempts by bears to break into people's houses.

Vysoké Tatry mayor Ján Mokoš stressed that it is necessary to deal with the bears’ brazen behaviour.

Read also:Bear watching and birdwatching in Slovakia

“We have had occurrences of brown bears here in the past, but they had never approached inhabited zones so frequently,” he said, as quoted by the TASR newswire. “They were only roaming on roads and pathways. Nonetheless, we’ve already got as many as five complaints that they attempted to break in into houses, and in two cases they even attacked dogs at homes. We’re also concerned about their movement around nursery and primary schools.”

“The number of bears has been steadily rising, there are hundreds of them at the moment,” town police commander Miroslav Kolodzej said, adding that the authorities will send written recommendations on how to deal with bears to every household. For example, people should be cautious to appear near waste containers after it gets dark.

Shooting... or maybe other options?

The town authority is not authorised to shoot bears, according to Mokoš. There has been a ban on hunting bears for almost 25 years and experts say there are now several hundreds of them in the wilds of Slovakia. The monitoring found containers with communal waste visited by these animals but also watched them roam around municipalities of Vyšné Hágy, Nový Smokovec, Starý Smokovec, Dolný Smokove, Tatranská Kotlina and Tatranská Lomnica. 

“We still repeat that a bear belongs here, and this is his home; but there must be space, too, also for humans – both locals and visitors," Mokoš explained, as cited by the SITA newswire. He sees the huge population and also containers with separated waste as reasons behind the current crisis.

“If we don’t find other, better solutions, one of the complex measures could be to reduce their occurrence by shooting them,” Mokoš opined, according to SITA. He complained, though, that the local self-government does not have competence to reduce the population – this is the competence of Environment Ministry, based on the documents the administration sends annually.

A more peaceful solution may be the installation of small depots for separated waste – but here, again, the coordination and agreement with state bodies are necessary, according to Mokoš. Locals would like to build 74 of them, but have failed to procure the land underneath them from state.

Head of the Regional Tourism Organisation of the Vysoké Tatry region, Lenka Maťašovská, told TASR that the situation cannot be downplayed but cannot be described as bad as locals not being able to come out of their homes. However, they should not move around the waste containers in the dark.

The Tatra National Park (TANAP) administration commented that cases of people being attacked and even injured by bears have been repeated for several decades. “TANAP Administration’s expert opinion is that most attacks are caused by bears which lose natural shyness towards humans in a certain period of their lives,: this can result in a bear killing a person,” TANAP wrote in a release, quoted by SITA.

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