A BROWN bear is believed to have chased more than 200 sheep off a cliff in the Pyrenees near the border between France and Spain.
209 sheep were found dead at the foot of the cliff near the Spanish village of Lladorre.
The sheep belonged to a farmer in Couflens, France.
The incident happened last weekend when the bear attacked one of the sheep, sending the entire flock into a panicked frenzy, plunging off the 650-foot (200 metre) cliff in an attempt to flee the predator.
Farmers have been incensed by the news, renewing the debate over the reintroduction of bears to the Pyrenees.
The French government said it’ll compensate the farmer, but the local branch of the French farmers’ federation, the Confederation Paysanne de l’Ariege, is thoroughly unimpressed. ‘Pastoralism – which protects biodiversity and keeps the mountains alive – is not compatible with the reintroduction of large predators,’ it said in a statement.
‘The state, which is responsible for the reintroduction of the bears, should remove the ones that are causing problems and should not reintroduce any more bears,’ it added.
Brown bears were all but wiped out by hunters in the Pyrenees in the 1990s and the French government has been trying to reintroduce the animals to the region since 1996-97 when two females and a male were brought from Slovenia.
There are now believed to be 35 brown bears calling this picturesque mountainous region their home.
Despite protective efforts, around 300 sheep are killed each year from bear attacks, according to France’s Office of Hunting and Wildlife.
For context, of the half a million-sheep living in the Pyrenees, about 15,000 die each year from natural causes such as disease, bad weather and falls. Sheep are also preyed upon by dogs, who may be responsible for many more sheep deaths than bears.
Last year, a similar incident occurred in the Pyrenees, resulting in the death of 130 sheep.