The example of the wildlife management and monitoring in the southeastern part of the Făgăraș Mountains can be taken over at national level: rapid intervention teams, to solve potentially dangerous situations, donations of Carpathian Shepherd dogs, electric fences provided for free, non-invasive monitoring through DNA methods and a coherent management plan.
The Carpathia entities – Carpathia Forest District, Piatra Craiului Făgăraș Conservation Association, together with the GTS Păpușa Leaota Association coordinate all activities related to wildlife over an area of 65,000 hectares, in the southeast of the Făgăraș and Leaota Mountains. In the summer of 2019, with financial support from the Arcadia Foundation through the Endangered Landscapes Program and the European Commission through the LIFE program, we have set up two rapid intervention teams, with members appointed from Carpathia wildlife management units, representatives of the Argeș County Inspectorate of Gendarmes and veterinarians. The teams patrol to prevent possible damage caused by wild boar or bears, and to discourage potential poaching, in the areas of Rucăr, Sătic, Lerești, Voinești, Pojorâta, Valea Mare Pravăț, Nămăiești, Dragoslavele, Lăicăi, Bughița – Albești, Stoenești and Piatra Stoenești.
Damages caused by wildlife are increasing as human activity and climate change are felt increasingly in mountainous areas. The law specifies that wild animals belong to the Romanian State, and the managers of hunting reserves have the obligation to implement measures to maintain a healthy balance in the area. Large carnivores are protected species of European interest, and their management is restricted by specific environmental regulations.
What has been done in the last 12 months to prevent human-wildlife conflicts
“So far, we have responded to about 125 complaints. We are called directly or mobilized through the Inspectorate of Emergency Situations,” says Mihai Zotta, head of Carpathia Forest District. “We organize actions to push wild boar and bears back into the forest and, where all other methods of preventive management are not successful, we ask for approval from the Ministry of Environment: we have relocated one bear and eliminated two others, which caused damage in the Rucăr commune and were a threat to the locals. For instance, in the case of wild boar, on the 22 Rucăr management unit, we received from the Ministry a quota of 21 specimens, from which we have extracted 19. So far, on the other reserves the quota allocated for the period May 2019 – May 2020, with an extension of another 60 days within the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, is 95% fulfilled. The difference is that we do not organize trophy hunting or for sport or pleasure, but only extract the specimens that cause damage or are dangerous, especially near the villages.”
City halls organise meetings to assess the damage caused by wildlife. There are also cases in which the victims claim damages for animals left unguarded, in open areas, overnight, as in the case of the two cows in Rucăr commune, where the legislation is categorical – no compensation is granted. Owners must take a minimum of preventive measures. Last year Carpathia paid 30,480 RON/6,310 EUR as private compensation.
Our priority is to avoid conflicts between humans and wildlife, and consequently we took several preventive measures. Carpathia bought 40 electric fences which we have installed in problematic areas for free, for temporary periods. Fences have proven to be very effective if they are properly maintained by the temporary beneficiary. We also plan to introduce a system of special waste containers, inaccessible to bears and electronic devices with motion sensors, which will drive wildlife away. From 2019 until present, we have donated 26 Carpathian Shepherd dogs to ten farmers, in order to restore the pure Carpathian guardian breed, one that is both friendly to tourists, but imposing and efficient when in contact with wild animals. The next step is to implement another ‘in kind’ system of private compensation in the Carpathia project area, through which damages based on well-founded complaints will receive in return replacement sheep or cows in lieu of those killed by bears or wolves. This project will be implemented this summer.
“We are present in the community and not only do we want days without incidents, but we also take various measures in this direction,” says Mihai Zotta. “Beech fructification has been declining for the past three years, and wild boar and bears have been short of food. Harvesting berries and mushrooms must be done in a balanced way, leaving resources for wildlife and establishing quiet areas, otherwise, the fauna will be driven out of the forest towards the villages. Climate change modifies the seasons and shortens winters – implicitly the bear hibernation period. Livestock remain abandoned in areas relatively close to villages or orchards are left unpicked – these are just a few of the reasons behind the presence of wildlife so close to the villages,” continues Mihai Zotta.
“I take this opportunity to answer the questions of a local journalist, curious about an absurd rumour about vipers and bears brought by the FCC, via helicopter. Conservation Carpathia has only flown people by helicopter, whether national or international authorities, members of the press or various visitors, to whom we have shown both the unique beauty of the Făgăraș Mountains and the mistakes made in the past, in order to maintain a balance better for protected areas and for people. Why would we have brought vipers, to endanger our own employees and over 200 seasonal workers? Why would we bring bears, since we are working to solve the problems in the communities? We strongly state that we did not bring any vipers or bears in the area, above those that exist naturally.”
The development of actions for the management of human-wildlife conflicts is carried out within the project ‘Creation of a Wilderness Reserve in the Făgăraș Mountains, Romania’, funded by the European Commission under the LIFE program and implemented by the Foundation Conservation Carpathia in partnership with the other Carpathia entities and other organisations.