A bear has made its home in the Solina commune in Podkarpacie. It sneaks onto property and eats small animals. Residents fear for their own and their children’s safety. The head of the commune, Adam Piątkowski, appealed for caution. He appointed a special intervention group to scare away the predator. The governor does not rule out that if this proves ineffective, he will apply for the shooting of the animal. – Shooting is a last resort. Earlier, everything should be done to return this animal to nature – comments the Bieszczady naturalist, Robert Gatzka.
The largest population of bears in Poland lives in the Podkarpackie Voivodeship. Their occurrence is concentrated mainly in the Bieszczady Mountains. These animals, wild by nature and avoiding people, have been appearing more and more often in the vicinity of human buildings, villages and cities for several years. One of the predators took a liking to the commune of Solina located in the Bieszczady Mountains. The individual enters properties, sneaks into chicken coops, dovecotes and cages with rabbits, from where it eats animals.
– He has been with us three times since mid-February. He smashed the rabbit cages and ate two of them. Some time later, he went into the hen house and ate 12 hens, and he also got at the new rabbits we bought to replace the bitten ones. He ate some of the animals, tore others to pieces, and left the remains on the property. He jumped over the gate to get to our property. He did it very efficiently. He forced the dovecote of his neighbor and killed dozens of birds – says Justyna Domańska, a resident of Wołkowyja in the Solina commune, in an interview with the tvn24.pl portal.
“We sit at home like in a cage because we are afraid”
The bear was also seen on other properties and on the streets of Solina. – A neighbor recorded him running through the village streets from the window of the post office. The bear also entered my husband’s cousin’s property. He walked under the windows of the neighbors. And all this happened in the afternoon – says Mrs. Justyna. And he adds. – We have two children, one is six years old, the other is 20 months old. We don’t go out for walks because the bear runs around the village, after dark we don’t go out at all. We sit at home like in a cage, because we are afraid – admits our interlocutor.
They took the bear away and he came back. Mayor calls for “extreme caution”
– Everything indicates that this is an individual with whom we have had problems in previous years – Adam Piątkowski, the mayor of the Solina commune, tells us. Last year, a young female bear forced protection and ate poultry and rabbits from cages on private properties. She was also seen on the playground next to the municipal kindergarten. After many interventions by residents who were afraid for their safety, the mayor applied to the Regional Directorate for Environmental Protection in Rzeszów for permission to scare the animal, and when that did not help, to the General Directorate for Environmental Protection for a shot. Earlier, however, the female bear – as it turned out later – was put to sleep, caught and transported to the forest near the Polish-Slovak border. However, everything indicates that the predator has returned to its former territory.
A few weeks ago, he started to appear again in the municipality of Solina. And just like last year, he enters the property, from where he eats poultry and rabbits. – This year we have already recorded a few applications from residents, last year several dozen – the mayor of Piatkowski tells us. – The bear feels at home, he treats the chicken coops as restaurants – our interlocutor adds.
According to the regulations, it is the responsibility of the commune owner to ensure the safety of residents. “Due to the next appearance of a bear in towns in our commune, I am asking everyone to be especially careful” – appealed to the mayor of the Solina commune on social media.
“We must take action to prevent this from happening”
In the last few years, the commune head has already applied three times to the General Directorate for Environmental Protection for the reduction of the predator. – Many people may not like this, but if necessary, I will submit such a request once again – says Adam Piątkowski in an interview with the tvn24.pl portal. – I talked to foresters, naturalists and hunters and they are of the opinion that this individual is too used to living among people and it is impossible to change its behavior. It is a wild animal that is unpredictable, he argues.
A special intervention group was formed
After two years of efforts, the mayor managed to raise funds and gather a team to set up a special intervention group that will deal with scaring away the predator, and if necessary, will catch the bear and transport it outside the commune. – This is a group of professionals who will be equipped with appropriate, specialized equipment. It will respond to residents’ reports on an ongoing basis and deal with scaring the animal away. If this does not help, we will reach for other solutions, including the elimination of the individual. Please understand me, I am responsible for the safety of residents and tourists. I cannot allow a predator to run around the commune, because it can end in tragedy – he adds.
The inhabitants of the commune hope that a special group will help and the bear will be able to scare away from the commune. – This is about the safety of our children. After all, we can’t stay at home 24/7. In addition, the tourist season is approaching, crowds of people will soon be on the streets. The community needs to take action. There is no need to wait for a tragedy to happen – points out Justyna.
Naturalist: “Cutting is a last resort”
– In my opinion, shooting is a last resort. A method that can be used when all other methods have failed, such as deterrence or moving the predator to another place. Earlier, everything should be done to bring this animal back to nature, believes Robert Gatzka, a naturalist from the Association Park for the Protection of Bieszczady Fauna.
As our interlocutor emphasizes, it is not easy, but not impossible. He gives the Tatra Mountains as an example. An intervention group has been established in the Tatra National Park, which effectively scares away bears. – It consists in the fact that a “problematic” individual is put on a telemetry collar and its movements are tracked. When a predator appears near a sensitive area, the group gets a signal and goes to the indicated place. When a predator appears, a rubber bullet is shot at it. It is quite painful for the animal and that’s the point, the predator is supposed to associate a given place not with easily accessible food, but with pain, thanks to which it avoids appearing in these places – explains the naturalist.
In an interview with the tvn24.pl portal, he emphasizes that people are largely responsible for the fact that bears are increasingly appearing near human settlements. – They are very intelligent animals, but also opportunists when it comes to obtaining food. If they have easy access to food, they will use it. Despite numerous appeals, many people still inadequately protect compost bins, leave garbage with food leftovers at their properties, this attracts bears, and if they get used to the fact that they can get food in this easy way, they will come back. We ourselves encourage these bears to behave this way. This is largely our fault – explains the naturalist.
At the same time, our interlocutor emphasizes that there are not many bears that cause problems. – On the scale of the entire population, there are only a few individuals. They can be unlearned, but it takes a lot of work and time – he concludes.
Coops as “free canteens”
This year, until Tuesday, April 4, the Regional Directorate for Environmental Protection in Rzeszów received six notifications of damage caused by bears from the Solina commune. According to Łukasz Lis, spokesman for RDOŚ in Rzeszów, they concerned bitten rabbits and chickens and destroyed hives. Last year, the Rzeszów Regional Directorate of Environmental Protection recorded 99 such damages in the Solina commune.
The bear, as Łukasz Lis explains, stays close to farms, because he associates them with easy access to food. – This is known as positive reinforcement. The animal associates human dwellings with the easy availability of food, because more or less consciously we provide them with a free canteen. That is why it is so important to properly protect garbage containers, compost bins, apiaries and farms, the spokesman points out.
Foresters appeal: “Let’s do it for our own safety and for the sake of Bieszczady bears”
Foresters also call for proper protection of garbage. – Let us remember not to leave food waste, sweets packaging at parking spaces, parking lots, stops, rest shelters. Bears come to such places, if they remember this taste, find waste, taste it, they will come back to this place. Mostly under the cover of night, but it may happen that they come during the day when there are people. Let’s do it for our own safety and for the sake of the Bieszczady bears – appealed Kazimierz Nóżka from the Baligród Forest Inspectorate.
Don’t panic, don’t run, it’s best to play dead
Bears can be dangerous to humans when we surprise them in their natural habitat. Mothers with young can be particularly dangerous, as they can pose a deadly threat in defense of their offspring. An adult specimen, when standing upright on its hind legs, is over three meters tall and can weigh up to half a ton. Such a bear can kill with one paw strike.
In order to avoid meeting a bear, you should only move along marked trails. Avoid evening, lonely trips in the woods. Do not enter dense thickets (young trees, crops) where these predators may reside.
– The most important thing is to know that a bear is not a teddy bear. Especially young specimens look very sweet, but such juveniles, due to their strength, can be a threat – emphasizes the spokesman of the Regional Directorate for Environmental Protection in Rzeszów.
However, if you encounter a bear, do not run away, make sudden movements or look the animal in the eye, as this may provoke it to attack. It’s best to slowly, carefully back away.
However, if a predator attacks, you should lie flat on the ground, press your belly to the ground with your hands covering your neck and head. – Do not move, do not make any sounds, it is best to pretend to be dead – instructs Łukasz Lis.
The number of bears is growing
The brown bear has been under strict protection in Poland since 1952. According to estimates, since the beginning of the 1970s, its number in Podkarpacie has increased more than six times. 40 years ago there were less than 20 of them and they were only found in the Bieszczady Mountains. A quarter of a century later, there were already 50 of them, and in the first years of this century – 100.
Currently, there are nearly 200 of these predators in south-eastern Poland, mainly in the Bieszczady Mountains, Beskid Niski and the Przemyśl Foothills. This is 90 percent of the Polish population.
Main photo source: Private archive