Brown bear shot dead in France after attacking 70-year-old man

Brown bear shot dead in France after attacking 70-year-old man
Wild boar hunter suffers serious leg injuries after Pyrenees attack

A brown bear was shot dead in southwest France after attacking a 70-year-old man while he was hunting for wild boar.

The attack in Ariège, south of Toulouse near the border with Spain, left the man with serious leg injuries. He was transferred by helicopter to hospital where he is receiving treatment.

Local media reported that the unnamed man fired two shots with his rifle which killed the bear instantly after coming face-to-face with the animal.

One member of the hunting party told French news website La Depeche: “I was a little further away, I didn’t see what was happening but I heard the call on the radio. The bear attacked him and grabbed his leg, tore off his calf and injured him on the other leg too.

“One person managed to stop the bleeding until help arrived.”

Another said bear attacks were becoming more common because of a lack of food high up in the mountains.

“This doesn’t surprise me,” the unnamed witness told La Depeche. “They are getting closer and closer because there is nothing left to eat in the mountains. He shot [the bear] only to defend himself.”

An investigation has been launched into the circumstances surrounding the attack.

France began importing brown bears from Slovenia in the 1990s, when its own population in the Pyrenees was heading for extinction.

Fifteen years ago, France, Spain and Andorra agreed on a joint plan to repopulate the Pyrenees with brown bears, but only slowly over fears more of the animals could threaten farming and tourism.

Numbers declined because loggers and forest fires encroached upon the bears’ woodland habitat, and human encirclement over the years has provoked the bears to react aggressively on occasions.

The Pyrenean population is now estimated to be around 40 bears roaming over a long swathe of mountains along the border between France and Spain.

Bear attacks on livestock have surged in recent years, from a stable number of between 100 and 200 attacks per year across the Pyrenees to close to 400 in 2018.