Polish bears face grizzly wake-up during noisy New Year party

A fake bear on a stretcher during a protest against a New Year's event that some fear will wake hibernating bears

Let sleeping bears lie? Not in Poland this New Year's Eve, where a row is brewing over the decision to relocate an annual televised event with fireworks and partying to the slopes of the country's main ski resort -- a hibernation area for the areas.

By Tuesday more than 27,000 people had signed a petition organised by a local newspaper, which broke the story after discovering the plan at a council meeting in late October.

Hundreds of protesters walked across the city of Zakopane with a fake bear on a stretcher on Saturday, days after the mayor confirmed the relocation, calling on him to stop the process.

TVP public television station, which organises the show, criticised what it called "pseudo-ecologists" and argued that sports events had been held in the area in the past without any problems.

The station said it needed to move the event because strong winds meant they would not be able to mount the towers and scenery needed for their broadcast, whereas the new location would be shielded from the wind by trees.

Local newspaper publisher Jerzy Jurecki launched the petition after learning of the plan to move the event from Zakopane's town centre to the nearby slopes in Tatra National Park.

After the story broke, the park said in a statement that the "noise and flashes made by fireworks and firecrackers trigger anxiety in animals, as well as a search for new spots and in the longterm a drop in the birth rate".

The statement added that a bear had died last year after being woken up on New Year's Eve.

An expert from the park confirmed to AFP that there were Carpathian brown bears in the area, though he said precise numbers were not known.

A fake bear on a stretcher during a protest against a New Year's event that some fear will wake hibernating bears