Foundation Conservation Carpathia has initiated a pilot research project to improve conflict mitigation work between bears and local communities in the Southern Carpathians. This project involves studying and understanding the behaviour of problem bears by fitting them with GPS collars.
In the near future, Foundation Conservation Carpathia will capture five bears that frequently come down near residential localities, fit them with GPS collars and release them immediately. The collars have integrated software that allows various virtual digital information categories to be set up, such as the external outline of localities. When a collared bear approaches these localities again, the system sends an alert to the rapid intervention team so that they can intervene as soon as possible. The project aims to study the behaviour of bears approaching villages in search of food, eliminate the causes that attract them, and find solutions to reduce conflicts between humans and wild animals. The GPS collars are equipped with automatic release systems, so that at the end of the study, or sooner on command, they can be released and the data stored on them analysed by the project team.
The areas concerned are those included in the 18 Râul Târgului, 22 Rucăr, 20 Stoenești wildlife management concessions, in the immediate vicinity of the communes of Rucăr, Stoenești, Dragoslavele, Lerești and Bughea de Sus respectively, in Argeș county.
The project is being carried out on the basis of the Ministerial Order of the Ministry of the Environment, Water and Forests, which has approved by derogation the trapping of five bears and the related environmental permit. The action is part of Foundation Conservation Carpathia’s efforts to find solutions to reduce conflicts between humans and wild animals, and the funding is mainly private.
“Foundation Conservation Carpathia focuses on resolving conflicts where they occur, eliminating the causes of these conflicts and targeting individual bears that cause problems,” explains Mihai Zotta, Conservation Director, Foundation Conservation Carpathia. “Preventing conflicts between bears and humans should primarily be based on diminishing and eliminating the sources of bear attraction in the vicinity of human communities. The research aims to identify and document these sources of attraction in the study area so that action can be taken with the local authorities to eliminate them, and then to verify the effectiveness of actions to eliminate the attractants (household or animal waste, uncultivated fruit in orchards, unprotected domestic animals, etc.). In parallel, it is also intended to test the effectiveness of various means of preventing and repelling bears, such as electric fences, automatic alarms with sound or lights, those based on artificial intelligence, and the effectiveness of special chasing dogs or Carpathian Shepherd dogs. Last but not least, the effectiveness of creating areas with quasi-natural food sources (e.g., mown grassland with fruit trees in a more remote area of the village, which would keep bears from advancing towards the village) will be analysed. We hope that the study will provide more information about the behaviour of problem bears and the causes that led to their change in behaviour, so that measures to remove bears can be taken carefully and on the basis of arguments. We believe that random killing of bears is not a good solution to resolve conflicts, as it often targets bears found in natural habitats in forests that may not cause problems for local communities.”
The study will be carried out between November 2022 and December 2024 and the conclusions will be sent to environmental authorities, local authorities and other stakeholders.
Conservation Carpathia manages 78,000 ha (five wildlife management concessions) in the southeastern Făgăraș Mountains, where it is creating a model of human-wildlife coexistence based on prevention – intervention – compensation.
Prevention involves the donation of Carpathian Shepherd dogs and the installation of electric fences to reinforce night-time security in the households or farms. So far, we have donated 50 Carpathian Shepherd dogs and we provided 60 electric fences and the programme continues under the LIFE/Endangered Landscape Programme funding.
Intervention through the two rapid intervention teams when conflicts with wild animals occur. The teams have intervened in 588 wild animal conflicts (bears, wild boars, wolves) from May 2019 to date.
Compensatory measures involve real-time replacement of domestic animals killed by large carnivores. The organisation has voluntarily donated 57 sheep and 20 cows in exchange for those killed in wildlife attacks.
All of these contribute to conflict mitigation, but long-term viable solutions require all parties involved to work together and make minimal efforts to eliminate both the sources of bear attractiveness and the best measures to prevent and eliminate conflict.
Photo: Cornelia Doerr