TWO brown bears were callously gunned down in northern Spain in what has been described as a ‘dark day’ for efforts to protect the species.
The adult females were both shot dead on Sunday, November 21, by two different wild boar hunters, with one claiming to have fired at the bear in self defence.
Both bears were killed in conservation zones, just one day after a law banning commercial hunting in Spain’s National Parks came into force.
One of the bears was shot in the Palencia mountains, a northern province in the Castile and Leon region, by a hunter who claimed he thought the creature was a wild boar.
The second bear, named Sarousse, was killed during a hunting effort in Bardají valley in the Spanish Pyrenees.
The 21-year-old animal was shot dead on Spanish Aragonese side of the mountain range, with the hunter reporting to have opened fire in self-defence.
He is said to have gunned down Sarousse at point-blank range when she advanced on him in an ‘aggressive manner’ after she was disturbed by his dogs.
Sarousse, who had originally been captured in Slovenia before being released in the French Pyrenees in 2006, is the third bear to be killed in the Pyrenees this year.
Teresa Ribera, the environment minister, said efforts were underway to determine what led to the killing of two bears on November 29.
The Guardia Civil’s wildlife unit have confirmed they are investigating both deaths.
The incidents came ten days after police in Catalonia said they had arrested a local environmental official over the death of another bear, a six-year-old male called Cachou, in April, in the Val d’Aran area in the Pyrenees near the French border.
The Spanish Brown Bear Foundation described the killings as a ‘dark day for brown bear conservation’.
On social media, the group warned that deliberate hunting carried penalties of up to three years in prison and called for a review of laws against deliberate hunting of the species.
They tweeted: “We have initiated legal actions to request the clarification of the shooting death of the two bears yesterday during hunts in the Palentina Mountain and in the Aragonese Pyrenees. In addition, we will appear as a private prosecutor.”
Garcia Paloma replied: “It’s time to ask for a review of convictions for these crimes.
“This is enough. These bears were everyone’s heritage.”
Bears, once critically endangered in Spain, are now considered ‘high priority’ by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). Brown bears became a protected species in 1973 as part of an attempt to grow numbers in the Pyrenees between France and Spain.
The death of the two female bears comes as sport and commercial hunting became illegal in Spain’s National Parks on December 5.
Back in 2014, the then ruling party, the PP, granted a six year extension to the law that permits hunting on private land situated in protected areas.
The extension came to an end last week in a move that hunter associations have slammed as an ‘ecological disaster’.
Hunters say the banning of commercial hunting will cause job losses and will further aggravate the abandonment of the rural world.
Meanwhile, concerns that hunters will refuse to comply with the ban and secure permits are still being given to kill animals by passing them through population control.