Home Newsletter 2009 The Greek Bear Emergency Team

by Constantinos Godes

Greece hosts a substantial part of the brown bear population in south-eastern Europe.

It is estimated that approximately 190-260 brown bears live today in two non-communicating mountain ranges in Greece (Pindos and Rodopi). According to the Red Data Book, the brown bear is officially recognized as an endangered species in Greece and is, therefore, strictly protected.

During the last year in Greece there has been a significant increase in the traffic accidents involving bears, mainly due to the construction of large infrastructure works (highways), which lead to the fragmentation of the bear habitat. It was therefore imperative to create a specialized team that would intervene in such cases, and in other human-bear conflict situations. The team would be equipped with the appropriate vehicle, veterinary equipment and medicine necessary for the care of the animal.

In the framework of the LIFE EX-TRA project a Bear Emergency Team (BET) has been created by Callisto. The Team consists of two veterinarians and two biologists, all experienced in bear emergency situations. The BET members are properly trained in order to act swiftly in cases of traffic accidents involving bears, poaching incidents, or even in the case of habituated animals who approach human settlements and cause repeated damage.
Depending on the situation, the problem bear might have to be aversively conditioned, thus discouraging it from approaching the site in the future. If this is not sufficient, it will be tranquilized and fitted with a radio-transmitter, which will give the researchers the possibility to monitor its activities and prevent future conflicts.

The BET will play a major role in the management of human – large carnivore conflict situations. The team will also play a crucial role in the information and sensitization of the inhabitants of rural areas concerning large carnivores and especially bears.

In addition to the above, the BET will provide information to farmers and livestock raisers on the use of preventive measures that can be applied in order to minimize damages caused by bear to their agricultural production. A combination of increased awareness and a fair damage compensation policy will hopefully contribute to increasing possible coexistence of man and bear, and thus the safeguarding for the survival of the species.