Last she-bear killed in the Pyrenees by hunters

2nd November 2004, Comments 0 comments

PAU, France, Nov 2 (AFP) - French environmentalists reacted with fury Tuesday after hunters shot dead one of the last remaining bears in the Pyrenees mountains separating France and Spain.

PAU, France, Nov 2 (AFP) - French environmentalists reacted with fury Tuesday after hunters shot dead one of the last remaining bears in the Pyrenees mountains separating France and Spain.

The 15-year-old female - known to game-wardens as Cannelle - was killed on Monday in the Aspe valley when she and her cub were surprised by a group of hunters taking part in a wild-boar shoot.

The hunters claimed they fired in self-defence after Cannelle charged and bit one of their dogs, but environmentalist groups accused them of deliberately selecting an area where they knew they were likely to come across the bear.

"There are no extenuating circumstances behind this indescribably catastrophic event," said Action Nature in a statement. "The organisers of this wild-boar hunt knew perfectly well that Cannelle and her offspring of this year were in the area where they went to indulge their pleasure."

"A hunt with dogs in a sector where a female bear has been spotted is inexcusable," said the organisation Ligue Roc.

The president of the Departmental Hunters' Federation Bernard Place added his voice to the outcry. "The hunters had been warned there was a bear in the area. There should not have been any shoot. I am dumbstruck," he said.

Campaigners said they were extremely concerned for the safety of the bear-cub, which fled the scene after its mother was shot.

There are believed to be around 15 bears surviving in the Pyrenees mountains. Canelle was the only reproducing female in a sub-group of fewer than six living in the western end of the range. The dominant male in the sector, a 30 year-old named Papillon, died of old age in July.

But Cannelle's death was the more significant because she was the last female bear in the entire region of pure Pyrenean stock. Two other male bears are also indigenous but the rest are animals - or the cubs of animals - imported from Slovenia in the late 1990s.

Ecology Minister Serge Lepeltier described her death as an "ecological catastrophe ... The chances of preserving a pure French stock are now almost totally gone."

He said the authorities were doing all they could to locate the cub.

Attempts to boost bear numbers by releasing imported animals have proved partially successful. But their presence is fiercely resented by cattle and sheep farmers, many of whom are also local hunters.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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