Danger zone: Romania to get tough on bears following deadly mauling

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Romania boasts Europe's largest bear population outside of Russia — but the recent death of a teenage hiker from a bear attack has prompted politicians to rethink laws related to the killing of the animals.

The recent dramatic death of a 19-year-old hiker by a brown bear in Romania — one of the European Union's most forested countries — has prompted politicians into action.

Romanian Prime Minister Marcel Ciolacu has called for an extraordinary parliamentary session in Bucharest at an unspecified date to establish intervention measures when the animals are dangerous or in the "danger zone".

This could include shooting the brown bear when it becomes aggressive.

"There's overcrowding in certain areas. They don't have enough food and that's why they come down," he told reporters at a press conference in the country's capital on Wednesday.

"I also spoke to the president of the chamber because such a move can only be made through parliament. After the discussions, we'll ask for an extraordinary meeting in the parliament to pass it," Ciolacu said.

The death of a teenage girl on a popular hiking trail in the Carpathian Mountains this week is the latest in a string of attacks, with at least 14 deaths from brown bears in the south-eastern European country since 2016.

Romania is home to Europe's largest brown bear population of about 8,000, according to government figures. While their numbers have exploded in recent years, it means that the animals' incursion into domestic Romanian life is becoming more frequent.

It is illegal under EU law to kill brown bears — as they are listed as a "near-threatened" — unless it is to protect a person or livestock; since 2016 the Romanian government has also banned trophy hunting. This means legislating any new measures aside from the already stringent culling measures would prove to be a thorny issue in Romanian parliament.

'We cannot protect animals at the expense of people'

Romanian President Klaus Iohannis said during a press conference at the NATO summit in Washington on Wednesday that he was "shocked" by the recent mauling and that the country needed to balance the needs of wildlife with society.

"I am very sorry for the person who was a victim there, for her family, but I am also very sorry for Romania because we have incredible natural resources and we don't know how to manage them properly," he said.

Iohannis added that a legislative solution that "respects European rules" but also "respects peoples' lives" is necessary. "We cannot protect animals at the expense of people," he said.

Animal rights groups have repeatedly campaigned against culling brown bears, stating adequate prevention rests in better education and habitat protection.

At least 30 brown bears will be relocated from a major mountain throughway, Transfăgărășan, to an animal sanctuary following a Euronews Romania exclusive report detailing their presence on the road.

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