By Andy Coghlan
The hunting of bears and wolves is back on the agenda in Romania, less than a year after the government banned trophy hunting. Conservation groups have condemned the U-turn and are calling on the government to rescind the decision.
The move was announced on 5 September by Romanias environment minister Gratiela Gavrilescu. It will allow up to 140 bears and 97 wolves to be killed under supervision by the end of 2017, if theyre deemed to be nuisance animals that threaten livestock on farms or frighten people by encroaching into inhabited areas.
But the conservation groups fear that the quotas will be used as an excuse to allow trophy hunting to resume. The government banned that in October 2016.
Its unclear if hunters will be allowed to keep the bodies, or sell body parts, says Masha Kalinina of Humane Society International (HSI). She says the government has caved in to pressure from hunters, farmers and communities that feel threatened.
Save the cows, but how?
It is not clear that killing wolves will protect livestock. It is basically impossible to draw general conclusions on what works to reduce livestock depredation, says Ann Eklund of the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences.
Eklund published a study in May 2017 that found there is hardly any evidence on whether such interventions work. She says killing predators can sometimes protect livestock, but not if the deceased animals are immediately replaced, or are not part of the population that takes livestock.
Killing may even make things worse. If experienced wolves that are wary of approaching farms are taken out, they may be replaced by younger, more brazen successors who are more likely to attack livestock, says Kalinina.
Instead, HSI favours non-lethal methods to manage nuisance animals, such as making rubbish bins bear-proof to avoid attracting the animals. In the US, its pretty standard practice, says Kalinina. Similarly, wolves can be scared off by farm workers riding horses.
There are currently an estimated 6000 bears in Romania, says HSI. The wolf population has been estimated at 2500. After many years of decline, hunting and persecution, wolves and bears have been recovering over the past five years. Last years ban on trophy hunting might have cemented that recovery.