Romanian lawmakers called back from recess to address bear attacks

Brown bears interact inside an enclosure at "Libearty" Zarnesti bear sanctuary, central Romania

By Luiza Ilie

BUCHAREST (Reuters) - Romania's prime minister will summon lawmakers to attend an extraordinary parliamentary session to seek ways to prevent to bear attacks after a hiker was mauled to death.

Romania is home to Europe's largest population of brown bears - up to an estimated 8,000 - outside Russia.

On Tuesday, mountain rangers said they found a 19-year-old tourist dead near a popular trail in the Carpathian mountains, central Romania.

Rescuers tried to retrieve the body from a ravine, but were unable to do so as the bear tried to attack them and local police said they had to shoot it.

Prime Minister Marcel Ciolacu told reporters on Wednesday he would call politicians back from the recess that begins at the end of June and continues until the start of September.

He did not specify when the extraordinary session would take place, but said the aim was to agree measures to target high-risk areas.

"There will not be a free-for-all on shooting bears in Romania," he said.

Local media have regularly reported bear attacks on people and livestock. In most cases, people have been injured rather than killed.

The environment minister said in March that 26 people have been killed by bears in the last 20 years.

In 2021, a government decree gave town and city authorities the power to shoot bears that break into people's gardens and houses if attempts to chase them off or relocate them had failed.

Animal rights campaigners criticised the decree at the time and said officials had not done enough to try other prevention measures, including electric fences and better management.

They have also said the attacks have increased because of human behaviour as the animals' habitats are threatened by construction, logging and climate change. Many bears are also attracted by rubbish dumps on the outskirts of cities and by food left by tourists.

(Reporting by Luiza Ilie; editing by Barbara Lewis)