Farmers can’t use guns to scare brown bears, French court rules

Brown bear, photo: NOAA on Unsplash
Brown bear, photo: NOAA on Unsplash

Animal farmers in the French Pyrenees can’t fire warning shots anymore to scare off bears, a court ruled Friday. This is a victory for animal rights groups who warned of the risk of accidental deaths.

Three bears were killed in the Pyrenees last year. The six-year-old brown bear Cachou, who was found dead in the Spanish Pyrenees in April, was poisoned with a toxic substance used in antifreeze.

In June, a five-year-old male bear was shot dead near a ski station in Ariege on the French side of the border.

At the end of November, a hunter shot dead the female brown bear Sarousse in the Spanish Pyrenees. Regional officials said the hunter “claimed to have acted in self-defense”.

Tensions over the presence of brown bears in the mountains separating France and Spain have run high since a re-introduction effort was launched in the mid-1990s. Brown bears from Slovenia were released in the area.

There are about 50 bears currently in the Pyrenees. Farmers say the warning shots are needed to keep the bears from killing sheep and other animals.

In 2019, authorities began allowing warning shots on a trial basis. But the State Council struck down the measure after animal rights organizations filed a complaint, stating that warning shots are not compatible with “maintaining the populations in their natural environment.”

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