Bear population gradually returning to Beskydy Mountains

The Czech Union for Nature Conservation has been monitoring the role and presence of beasts of prey for some twenty years now. In the last few years, it has discovered that the number of bears crossing the Slovak and Polish borders into the Czech Republic is on the rise. While only one or two bears resided in Moravia's Beskydy Mountains a few decades ago, there are now at least five that have permanently settled in the region. This may sound like an insignificant development, but as Dita Asiedu reports, Czech environmentalists say it is cause for celebration:

European brown bear
It is difficult to ascertain exactly how many bears reside in the Czech Republic. They can travel up to 30 kilometres in a single night, and often cross the border into Slovakia or Poland. But according to Petr Styblo from the Czech Union for Nature Conservation, the bear population in the Czech Republic is growing slowly but surely:

"The bears in the Czech lands disappeared towards the end of the 19th century due to intensive poaching. At the time, an order was given allowing the killing of all wild animals, not just bears but also wolves and lynx, throughout the Austro-Hungarian empire. In the 20th century, they began to appear sporadically and that is when the permanent population of bears settled in Slovakia. Sometimes a bear or two crossed the border into the Beskydy Mountains in Moravia but they would either return to Slovakia or be killed."

Beskydy mountains
The bear population in neighbouring Slovakia has been rising constantly. Today it numbers some 700. Unwilling to tolerate any other bears on their territory, they have been forced to look for new territory. That's how they came to the Czech Republic. With living conditions in the Beskydy and Jeseniky mountains just as favourable, they are now more inclined to stay.

And the environment also benefits. Extensive poaching has left the Beskydy Mountains with few beasts of prey, especially wolves and lynx. Other wildlife is therefore reproducing excessively:

"Bears are not typical beasts of prey, their food is based on fruit and vegetables. However, they do hunt mammals that can be as big as deer. But they only hunt sick animals. So, we can say that bears keep the natural environment and remaining habitat healthy. Bears also love carcasses, especially those that are already decomposing and smell, so they also help to keep the environment clean and rid it of dead materials."

But whether or not the bear population will gradually rise to reach that of neighbouring Slovakia is too early to tell. The problem is that the bears' biggest threat is neither a lack of food or a polluted environment; their biggest enemy is man:

"They live in very hidden areas and it is quite possible that a few cubs have already been born because they are usually born in January or February. It is also hard to tell whether or how the bear population will grow. The environment is favourable but judging from the last few years we know that life is not going to be easy for the bears because there is a certain group of people, who love to hunt and secretly brag in their local pubs that they have killed a bear. We know it happens but it is difficult to prove it."