1. How many bears and wolves are in Romania?
According to the official estimation presented by the Romanian Bear Management Plan in 2006, there are about 6000 bears.
According to the Romanian General Association of Hunters and Anglers in Romania, there are about 4000 wolves.
2. How many wolves and bears are in an international level?
According to the europen action plan for wolf conservation – (Luigi Boitani, 2000) Action Plan for the conservation of the wolves (Canis lupus) in Europe, Nature and environment, No. 113, Council of Europe Publishing, – in Europe existed about 17890 –19545 wolves. Throughout almost the whole country, the wolf population showed an increasing trend. This led us to believe that today there is a larger population of wolves in Europe.
In some publications we find that the present brown bear population in the world numbers from 125,000 to 150,000 individuals. According to Jon E. Swenson, Norbert Gerstl, Bjørn Dahle, Andreas Zedrosser – Action Plan for the conservation of the Brown Bear (Ursus arctos) in Europe, Nature and environment, no. 114, Council of Europe Publishing, 2000, European brown bears now numbers about 50,000. With the exception of the Northeastern populations, populations are found mostly in isolated pockets with relatively few individuals. A significant population other than that in North-Eastern Europe (37,000 individuals) is found in the Carpathian Mountains (8,100) and the Dinaric Alps-Pindos Range (2,100). Noteworthy is the Scandinavian population, which 70 years ago was on the brink of extinction with 130 individuals, and has now grown to 1000 bears.
3. What are their legal and conservation status?
The following laws or agreements aim to protect wolves and bears:
Annex II, – wolves and bears- their protection require the designation of the Special Areas of Conservation
Annex IV – wolves and bears are strictly protected
Law no. 407 / 2006 *(Hunting Law)
– wolves and bears are protected, hunting of these species is forbidden, (Their hunting is possible just in some cases with the agreement of the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development and Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development
Law no. 13 / 1993 (Annex II.)
– Law for the acceptance of the Bern Convention
Law no. 96 / 1994 (Annex I. and II.)
– Law for the acceptance of the Washington Convention
EU Wildlife Trade Regulation
According to these laws wolves and bears are protected but at the same time hunted in a limited number.
4. Is hunting a persecution for large carnivores in Romania?
We don’t have the proper overview to see if hunting is a real factor on their long-term survival or not. The official data for hunted animals’ size, quality (age, sex, etc.) not always correct. Hunting goal for hunters is the best trophy; however, the management aim is to just reduce the number of population under an acceptable level (or optimal number), without compromising the healthy structure of the population. Nevertheless the optimal number is decreasing due to the increasing habitat destruction and disturbance.
According to some sources it is possible to disturb the actual bear population’s structure. There is no study with scientifically exigency or management issue to confirm or reject this supposition.
The hunting of wolves is mainly occasional, and they are usually hunted with other animals. For example, in wild boar hunting parties or bear hunting places where carcasses are used as bait. However using carcasses or meat as bait for bears is forbidden even though this practice is still widely used by hunters. Wolf hunting is so unexpectable that permission is given to hunt the wolf usually after the fact the hunter has killed one. It is possible that more wolves are being killed than official data can show. The killing or injuring of an experienced or an alpha animal in a wolf pack can be compromising the survival of the whole pack due to the decrease of their hunting success on natural prey. This also can contribute to the relative increase of the damages in livestock. (In sense of increasing damages / number of wolves.)
Wolf hunting has several institutional fault. Hunting quotas are distributed to a hunter after reporting the killed wolf. Sometimes if the trophy is not valuable the killed wolf is left in the field, and is not reported. If several wolves are harmed, this can diminish the chance to survive for the entire wolf pack. We don’t know in which measure can affect these controversies with the wolf population and conservation status.
Bear hunting also has some institutional fault like: hunters using widespread meat or animal carcasses as bait even though it is forbidden. It is common that hunters kill animals in places where they don’t have hunting quotas if they cant find bears in places where they have the hunting quota. Sometimes hunters knowing that there are only a few bear in their hunting district, and a loss of a fewer animal can be supported by their effective bears, they report officially more bear to ensure the hunting quota each year. Each year a significant quantity of hunting quotas that are distributed can be argued because the bear population exceeds the optimal number that can be supported by the habitat, or argued with a high quantity of damage. Officially, hunters may only fill half the hunting quota.
In our opinion, it is possible that these institutional faults with a lack of scientific research still does not affect the bear or wolf population and their long-term conservation seriously, but creating a favourable substrate for haziness at the expense of transparency led nature conservationists to be suspicious.
5. Where are they? Are they using protected areas?
There are only a few studies about Romanian wolf pack territory size, but it is clear that this is in relation to food availability. Wolf territory sizes in Romania are also dependent on the density of livestock. In Romania, wolves may use a territory between 80 km2 and 170 km2.
In Romania exist 12 National Parks with a total surface of 3074,61 km2 and 10 Nature Parks with a total surface of 5398,16 km2.
National Parks can give home to 18-40 wolf packs, which means about 79-176 animals if the average number of pack members is 4.4 like in Poland. This can represent 1.9% – 4.4% of the wolf population.
In case of Nature Parks this is the following: the number of the wolf packs can be between 31-68, with an average of 4.4 members, which means about 136-299 animals, representing 3.4 – 7.4%.
Natural and National parks can keep together 5.3 – 11.8% of the Romanian wolf population. In reality, wolves cannot use the whole protected area, and not all kinds of protected areas. Also wolves don’t respect the boundary of the protected areas. In this context this insular protected areas without a real network cannot protect wolf population.
The other 88.2 – 94.7 % of the wolf population are living outside of the protected areas, or closer to human settlements. In spite of the fact that in the mountainous area wolves can find more remote, relatively undisturbed areas, they have a higher density in a more hilly area, where the food availability is better than in mountainous areas. *(Thanks to the livestock density, high number of little sized agricultural fields where red deer, roe deer, wild boar can find more easily their food)
In the case of the brown bear, the situation is quite similar. Bears are not territorial animals. They can migrate seasonally huge distances when searching for anthills, fruits and crops. Their migrating distances and directions are in function with the period of the year and food availability, mainly wild fruits. The fructification of the wild fruit tree species like wild pear, wild apple or oak and beech tree is cyclical, and rarely coincide each with other. This means that after some years of poor or very poor fructification will come a year with rich fructification moreover in some cases the rich fructification of one or more tree species can coincide. Bears will visit and appear in higher numbers in places where important foods are available (usually hilly areas of the Carpathians, sometimes not far, or even too close to human settlements). The majority of the National Parks and Natural Parks are in the mountainous areas where important plant species are not all present for bear food. Beginning with the second half of the summer, bears usually come down from the mountains for searching crops, fruits and acorns. In managed forests some important fruit trees are weeding out, or are exchanged with other species that have economical/industrial higher importance.
For these reason, their migration route and intensity, today is not necessarily are the same than in the past. Neither a protected area alone can be enough in Romania, just for a few numbers of bears.
6. What are the main facts of consequence for co-existence with bears or wolves?
Here we will just delineate some aspects of carnivore/human interactions.
Wolves bite humans:
In Romania, there is no realistic data about wolf attacks on humans. According to a study (Linnell et all. 2002 – The fear of wolves: A review of wolf attacks on humans) in Romania was 41 cases known of wolf attacks on humans. From 41 cases 33 proved to be false, and just 8 seemed likely to be true. 2 were from a hunting party when hunters trying to stop the wounded animal with a stick (respectively, a hunter tried to kill the trapped wolf with a stick). The other 6 attacks happened when shepherds were trying to kill the cornered animal. In all the cases the “attack” in fact was just a defensive bite.
Loss in wild or domestic animals:
In Romania, there is no official report because a functional damage compensation system does not exist, and aggrieved persons rarely report damages. In this situation, we use our data on damages. (You can find damage data from a larger area in our brochure with the title “Carnivores and Humans: Can they peacefully coexist in Romania?”)
The only nuisance due to the wolf existence is the loss in wild or domestic animals:
We try to give an overview of wolf related losses in the wild or domestic animals using the only one existent wolf diet study in Romania (H. Almăşan et al. 1970) with scientifically exigency. This can show that wolves consuming predominantly
Domestic animals 75,8% where of:
and wild animals 24,2% where of:
56% roe deer,
14% wild boar
5% red deer.
Also our recent field observations in an unpublished study rather confirm the relevancy of this study as a disclaimer. Our conclusions are:
1. Domestic sheep are the primary food for wolves.
2. Wild prey species population cannot support just a small part of the wolf population. (…)
3. The existing wolf population cannot survive without domestic sheep.
4. Mureş County’s wolf population can be supported by only 0.90% of the Mureş County’s sheep and goat population.
5. Widespread use of the effective damage prevention methods like electric fences, without reducing the wolf population (*is not a recommendation) or without the increasing of the wild prey populations may harm wild prey animal populations. *(The entire red deer or roe deer population alone, can support the wolf population for less than one year)
6. In Mureş County, according to even the worst scenario, when the wolves diet would be 100% sheep and goat, the maximum expected damage without surplus killing should be only 1.73%.
(* It is very important to mention, that these conclusions are based on the official wolf and ungulate estimation in 2004.)
Coexistence close to humans:
In some cases we find that relatively frequent wolves approach very close to human settlements without being observed and without negative consequences. Of course, a fence near the house is necessary to keep dogs or other domestic animals safe. Moreover in our study area, wolves hunt red deer close to villages. I observed villagers who found the killed deer and collected the remaining meat.
Attack on humans:
In contrast to wolves, bears can seriously injure humans. In spite of their power, there are only a few attacks which end in decease. In Romania, there are a few places where tourists, or local people in the garbage dump feed bears. These are Brasov, Busteni, Predeal, Sinaia and Tusnad. However, attacks can happen also in other places near the agricultural lands, or hunting parties the attacks are quite frequent along the bear feeding garbage dump areas where habituated bear occurs.
Loss in wild or domestic animals:
The number of killed wild animals is not significant. Killed domestic animals, frequently cattle or horses, may mean a serious loss for the owner. People usually can accept more easily the bear damage rather than the wolf damage thanks to the bear’s more charismatic personality.
Damages in crops and orchards:
The damages on crops or orchards usually in Romania are harder tolerated in relation with the seriousness of damages rather than loss in livestock. A simple explanation for this is usually in a crop field or orchard a higher number of people are aggrieved. For example, in a village called Solocma in Mures County far from other villages, wild animals every year caused damages in crops. Wild boars, deers and sometimes bears feed on crops, mainly on corn (Zea mais). Villagers don’t like wild animals. In the autumn of 2006, they began to initiate a protest against wild animals. Through the media they claim hunter association and forestry serviceto the number of bears and wild boars. If governments, forestry or hunting associations don’t resolve this situation by reducing the number of the wild animals (bears and wild boars), they will halt the circulation in a very important road due to damages. After this, in Solocma village we set up an electric fence, which we had for preventing bear damages in a project called „Bear research and conservation in Romania’s Calimani and Gurghiu Mountains” – funded by Alertis fund for bear and nature conservation. After we enclosed a 6 ha area of corn, damages were stopped. The villagers were very satisfied and very enthusiastic. They planned for the next year to buy more wire to enclose all crop fields around the village. Unfortunately, the wires were considered too expensive in relation to the damages. So, even though a very easy method exists to prevent damages, local people don’t want to pay for it because in Romania it’s considered too expensive.
Coexistence close to humans:
Unlike wolves, bears can habituate relatively easy with humans. Since the existence of bears are relatively close to human settlements, it is not necessary a problem as long as they respect humans. Problems can arise dealing with some habituated bears, which can create undesirable events. However, when bears don’t need the closeness of humans, exists a phenomenon when bears lead to remote areas searching for food. This can have a multiple of reasons involving the following:
-Wild fruits, beech fruits, and acorns, which are the most important autumn bear food, have a cyclic fructification. Some tree species’ fructifications in higher quantity can occur just in every 3-7 years.
-The artificial changing of the forest tree specie composition with economically important species
-Habitat loss, destruction or disturbance.
7. Why sheep are so important as food for wolves?
Sheep and other domestic animals rarely are looked as an important part of the ecosystem, but undoubtedly, they have the role of the primary consumer in the ecosystem even if they have a human owner. Now they substitute their extirpated wild „equivalents” as the saiga antelope (Saiga tatarica), wild horse (Equus ferus), aurochs or urus (Bos primigenius) and european bison (Bison bonasus). In the far past, in particular in the open areas these animals were the wolves’ most important prey animals.
8. Is there a reintroduction program?
In Romania, a reintroduction program for bears and wolves are not necessary and doesn’t exist. In fact, if humans don’t kill itinerant wolves and bears, there is no need for any reintroduction program. Wolves and bears can disperse relatively quickly. Most important, and maybe less expensive is to put on the warpaint for the natural recovery and to overtake the problems which can arise thanks to carnivores. (Electric fencing, education, protecting and assurance of the natural food supply)
9. Actually, how is the relations between humans and predators in Romania? What do these predators mean for people? Is the public opinion sensible, about this question?
We can’t assume a real response for these questions including all Romania. If you ask just our feeling we can answer that usually in cities, and in places where is not predator – human conflict *(maybe thanks to the fact that people not gain their existence directly from agriculture or livestock keeping) the people show a positive attitude and some people show a kind of sensibility. In other places where there is relatively frequent bear or wolf damages, they react more negatively, even if the damage is relatively not significant. In some rural areas where peoples can have more frequent conflicts with wild animals, people’s tolerance is more less to the presence of carnivores. (For example when the wild boar damage is high and observe also a bear presence in crops.) Every night people guard their crop fields personally or sometime paying somebody for guarding. Nevertheless, we think that this should mean problems just in villages where the majority of the population is old. In fact, this kind of problem should be uncommon in a developed country where local people are less poor, and don’t depend on their crops.
In cases of depredation on livestock, we can state that the majority of the shepherds take into account some possible loss every year. Shepherds and animal keepers show a kind of fear, especially towards wolves. Also, an important factor is the permanent feeling of persecution even when wolves can’t take out or kill anything. Some shepherds should be in agreement with an acceptable loss, but they are ’stressed” by fear from a possibility of a higher unexpectedly damage.
Our public opinion studies
1. We made a public opinion study in a wolf area to find out what problems can arise because of them. You can see the result of this study in the attached document.
2. We made another public opinion study to find how people who have had conflicts think about the wolves, otters and bears. We asked only the aggrieved persons to found the most negative scenarios. You can look at some of the results in our brochure titled „Carnivores and Humans: Can they peacefully coexist in Romania?” All the negative attitudes are arising thanks to damages. Villagers don’t need any kind of wild animals. Although our study can’t show (because is not enough data for this), we can confirm that the acceptance of the carnivores is in relation with the educational level of the questioned person. We know even some animal keepers or shepherds who have a higher educational level, and we can state that also in spite of a higher damage usually they can find a peaceful solution for coexistence. (for example baying an electric fence)
3. The relation of some other people categories like hunters and foresters is harder to be studied. Usually, their acceptance toward carnivores is high. But they being hunters sometimes will consider wolf kills *(in case of natural preys like deer) a loss. This is a little controversial because according to a wolf diet study in 1960’s (H. Almăşan et al. 1970) and our field observations, wolves mainly eat domestic animals. They consume wild prey mainly in the wintertime, which is not a significant quantity. However, losses are considered an argument to estabilish hunting quotas.
4. In Romania, people still do not know about the modern and most important damage prevention methods like electric fences. Usually peoples are satisfied after trying the electric fences to protect livestock or crop field, but they consider it too expensive. We consider that in developed countries the use of the electric fence is relatively acceptable in price and we recommend the use of them to prevent damages around crop fields or livestock. In our study, we found that almost all questioned local people (all from conflict area) would be agreeable on bear or wolf protection if it involved a damage prevention initiative.
5. We can state the following about People’s sensibility:
The public opinion about large carnivores decisevely influences the successfulness of carnivore conservation activities. Misbeliefs, fairy tales and exagerated damages that can be related to these predators exercise a bad influence on public opinion. In order to eliminate the misbeliefs, popularization and education activities concerning large carnivores must be emphasized. The information provided to the wider public during these activites must be correct and without exaggerations. In many cases, the lack of interest shown by various target groups makes education difficult. Different target groups can be „won” for the cause of large carnivor conservation by different means, but in most cases, popularization-education is most effective if it can provide a lasting personal experience. But most people never have the opportunity to observe a wild wolf. Wolves, in contrast with other carnivores that are kept in Zoos (for example bears and cats), generally don’t leave a positive impression on the visiting public, since they are usually afraid of people and in many cases they are in a bad condition, or they are shedding their fur – making them unattractive. In contrast to this, people who visit Zoos leave with mostly good impressions about the playful, cute bears and cats.
This phenomenon also can be observed in Brasov around the garbage visiting bears’ site. In spite of a number of bear attacks in the last 20-year, near the garbage dumps local people like the bears very much.
10. Do you have examples or good or bad relations with predators and local population?
We know several examples for relations. The most edifying cases related to bears and humans we published in our brochure “Carnivores and Humans”. Other examples for bad relations can show usually human stupidity: sometimes young or drunk peoples trying to capture the bear pups with dogs, or scythe, prong or other tools, considering this an heroic act. In one case, a local person seeing a bear in a cherry tree in his orchard or garden began to shake down the bear from the tree. The frightened bear took a very short defensive attack and run away. But the villager after some days didn’t survive.
In case of wolves, the relation generally is reduced to visiting shepherd camps and livestock damages. Other people in an extreme case meet or have any direct relations with wolves because they are extremely shy and cautious. It is logical that bad experiences with wolves are the most common human wolf relation. People, although, who like nature are happy if can see a wolf track or if they are very lucky to hear wolf howling.
11. A ‘‘model’’ of co-existing is possible? What is it, which conditions?
When we initiated our first project, one of the most important goals was using the Romanian situation as an positive example. This can show that is possible to coexist with wolves and bears. There are a relative high number of carnivores that can survive together without modern damage prevention methods, and relatively supportable loss.
Our opinion is that there exist several models of co-existing around a world. In the past (several hundreds of years) simple people didn’t have tools to eradicate them, but when they had the occasion, they tried to kill them. This could have happened relatively rear, near human settlements. I consider that the most common co-existence model in the past was based on killing of the carnivores, which approached many more human settlements. Agricultural landscapes and a neutral area rounded in agricultural landscapes rounded human settlements. This neutral area where used by both people and wild animals (collecting wood, edible wild plants, fruits, small animals, grazing, and other activity). Farther from these neutral areas were relative wild areas suitable for wild animals. In this kind of system wild animals could survive more easily even if human attitudes were negative. The killing of the carnivores was relatively rare and in some cases was related with some ceremony.
Today, the habitats of the large carnivores are quite fragmented. This led to a wider surface for chafing between the human community and nature. A relatively high number of conflicts existed with a lower number of carnivores. People now can have several tools, occasions and arguments for killing them.
In time, there are changing conditions for co-existence. We can’t use today the last epoch’s co-existing models, but as humans of the 21st Century, we have all the technical opportunities for building a model for co-existence with these carnivores. It all depends on willingness.