The prefecture of Ariège will have to review its copy. In this department where most of the bears of the Pyrenees live, the authorities had authorized their scaring in case of danger, but the administrative court of Toulouse invalidated the prefectural decrees on Wednesday.
These measures allowing breeders to carry out dissuasive shooting to protect herds from bear predation, were taken in June at the request of several pastoral groups.
“A critically endangered species”
Recalling that the Pyrenean brown bear is “a species in critical danger of extinction”, the court considers that the scaring measures could “repel the bear outside the territories it usually frequents and therefore oust it part of its natural range”. Justice fears “deleterious effects on the bear population, in particular pregnant females”.
The administrative body also notes that five of the six pastoral groups “have not put in place the triptych of the means of protecting the herds (human presence, closed regrouping parks and guard dogs)”. Last week, sheep farmers attributed the death of about 50 sheep, found dead at the foot of a cliff, to the bear.
Non-lethal shots are regularly denounced by bear defense associations, which have also won their appeals several times before the Council of State. The environmental association One Voice, at the origin of the appeals, logically welcomed the court’s decision, stressing that the bear population “is below the threshold of viability of the species”. “Fantasies and irrational fears (are) spread against them by breeders who are, in all cases compensated, and always send their herds to the slaughterhouse”, judges the association.
About 70 bears in the area
Many breeders, hunters and local elected officials are opposed to the presence of the bear in the Pyrenees, defended by the State and associations for the defense of biodiversity. In 2020 and 2021, four bears were killed by humans in the Pyrenees. One was poisoned in Spain, the other three were shot.
While the bear had practically disappeared from the Pyrenees, a program of reintroduction of brown bears from Slovenia was initiated in the 1990s. Today, they are around 70, according to the French authorities, in particular in the center of the Pyrenees, in Ariège on the French side, in the Val d’Aran on the Spanish side.