WORLD

Life is harsh for Europe’s brown bears

JORDAN TIMM August 27 2007
WORLD

Life is harsh for Europe’s brown bears

JORDAN TIMM August 27 2007

Life is harsh for Europe’s brown bears

WORLD

JORDAN TIMM

Franska died on Aug. 9 at 6:30 a.m. on a highway near the village of Viger, in the foothills of the Pyrenees, not far from the shrine at Lourdes in the south of France. Nobody in the vehicle that struck her was hurt. The French ministry of ecology issued a solemn press release later that day confirming her death.

Franska was one of five Slovenian brown bears reintroduced into the Pyrenees last year as part of the government’s high-profile effort to restore the region’s bear population, which had all but vanished by the 1980s. Though still native to Russia and the Balkans, bears have been all but wiped out in Central Eur-

ope. Franska, however, became an oft-cited example for critics of the bear program. Last month, she was branded “psychotic” by local residents opposed to the animals. Georges Azavant, the president of the Pyrenees national park, admitted to the Times of London that Franska had been responsible for 58 of the 95 attacks on the region’s sheep in 2006, and that France had been misled about her age— though they thought they were getting a sixyear-old who would breed, Franska was in fact an irascible 17-year-old.

Opposition to the Pyrenean program has been vocal, marked by protests and even the deployment of glass shards coated in honey on paths. Similar resettlement projects in Italy and Austria have also sparked debates, and have produced their own ursine media stars—like Bruno, who captured the limelight in Germany for his wandering, but who was killed by hunters in the Alps last year after developing a pattern of attacking livestock. Under the terms of an agreement with Spain and Andorra, France will continue to introduce bears into the Pyrenees—10 more over the next few years, despite Franska’s legacy of sheep carcasses and controversy. M