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During the last 50 years the status of wolves and bears in Romania has constantly changed. In the middle of the last century the species were intensively persecuted. Later a centralized hunting management developed, which was focused on the bear as a symbol of the Carpathian big game species. Nowadays, the conservation status of the species is controversial: since the last decade, wolves and bears enjoy the protections status mentioned in the Bern Convention and in the EU Habitats Directive (92/43/EEC). However, these species can still be hunted according to the same criteria as in the past.
Despite these changes in the protection and management status of the species, still Romania is one of the main refugees of large carnivore species in Europe. Thus, wolves are reported (permanent and occasional presence) on about 57 000 sqm and bears on about 52 000 sqm. These territories cover about 25% of the Romanian land area and are located in the mountain and hilly areas of Carpathians. The continuous distribution across the Carpathian mountain range is more and more fragmented by the new infrastructure developments (localities expansion, express roads construction, tourism boom in certain areas).
In the last years there has been a strong tendency to overestimate these populations and the official estimates can range to more than 6000 bears and 3000 wolves, while the Romanian experts’ estimations are about 30% less than the official ones. This is a subject of many debates within the country and a general agreement regarding estimates of these large populations is one of the main steps for further management measures regarding preserving large carnivores in Romania.
The brown bear is an important species for game management in Romania. In fact, the total amounts paid for bear hunting in Romania account for 15-20% of the total sum related to revenues coming from hunting activities.
The wolf is not an interesting species for Romanian hunters. This species is mainly hunted in order to reduce their numbers and to increase the number of prey species such as roe deer, red deer and wild boar.

2.2.1 Threats and problems

Analyzing the threats and problems for large populations of wolves and bears distributed on an area larger than 50 000 sqm is not an easy action. Thus, we try to summarize the situation in order to have an overview of the Romanian situation. There are general threats such as poaching and infrastructure developments but also specific threats related to damage prevention and compensation or habituation of bears in certain areas.
The general threats can be resumed to the following ones:

  • infrastructure developments that are superficially taking into account the large carnivores conservation issues;
  • lack of coordination between investments in tourism and infrastructure and the ecological and environmental needs;
  • repeated changes in the legislation concerning wildlife management and in Romania (hunting law, Natura 2000, compensation systems);
  • lack of implementation capacity on national, regional and local level (changes of personnel, changes of institutions responsibilities, avoiding involvement of large carnivore experts in planning and decision processes, excessive bureaucracy).

Most of these general threats are very much related to the high decision level (ministerial) and the process of reduction of their effects proved to be difficult and the results are questionable.
The presence of large carnivore populations on large areas is a key issue for conservation. In this situation, there is one problem that could make the difference on middle and long term, namely the coexistence between large populations of wolves and bears in a developing environment.
This complex system of relations between humans and large carnivores in Romania is increasingly gaining importance, especially in the light of recent mass media campaigns that highlight the conflicts between large carnivores and humans. Thus, there is constant pressure from different interest groups. For example, the need for infrastructure development in Romania puts tremendous pressure on natural ecosystems and many times the economic interests are prevailing on the nature conservation ones. In such situations, there is a need to enhance the dialogue and information exchange between different interest groups in order to find the best solutions for the mitigation of conflicts and to improve the existing management mechanism related to large carnivore conservation.
Some of the key issues linked to the coexistence are the following:

  • implementation of a damage prevention strategy
  • proper implementation of a compensation systems related to large carnivores;
  • intensive work for reducing the habituation of bears in certain areas;
  • proper management of prey species, especially ungulates;
  • proper information of stakeholders and general public regarding key issues for large carnivores management.
Credits: George Predoiu

 

Credits: Annette Mertens

 

Credits: Annette Mertens

 

Credits: George Predoiu