France to release bears in the Pyrenees to boost population

France has announced that it intends to release a small number of brown bears into the Pyrenees to assist with population growth.

There are  couple of bears in the French mountain region, but the males are left without a mate. There are two known to still exist, a father and son, in the area. The last surviving female was killed by a hunter 14 years ago.

The move comes as the latest in a series of controversial rulings concerning France’s wildlife laws, including a measure which is set to increase the population of wolves in the countryside.

Nicolas Hulot, environment minister and former wildlife show TV host, has defended his decision to focus on bear population numbers, despite objections from farmers. He maintains that the survival of once-indigenous populations is more important than their concerns.

I don’t want to be the minister who stood by while this line (of bears) died out,” he told Le Parisien, “I decided to go on the offensive because there are only two males left in (the Pyrénées-occidentales) département, including Cannellito, son of Cannelle

According to The Telegraph:

Bears were re-introduced from Slovenia in the 1990s after hunters all but wiped out France’s native population.

The last time was in 2006, when five were freed near the Spanish border, but the lovelorn males, Canellito and Néré, are the only ones left in the western Pyrenees.

“Another 37 have been counted in the central section of the mountain range along the Spanish border. But conservationists say the two isolated males are unlikely to reach the group and would have to fight dominant males before being able to mate with the females.

The reintroduction of the creatures, which can weigh 250kg (almost 40 stone) and stand two metres tall on their hind legs, has been a divisive and impassioned issue for more than 20 years.”

I know it’s a sensitive subject but I want to work with (the farmers)… I understand their fears.” – Nicolas Hulot, environment minister

Hulot added: “We can’t preach to countries with big emblematic wild animals threatened with extinction if we falter in protecting species under threat in France.”

Wildlife organisations have been celebrating the announcement. It comes on the back of recent news that bears may also be reintroduced in the UK after more than 1,000 years of absence. It has also been proposed that lynx, wolves and wolverine also be reintroduced to the British countryside.