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10-day State of Emergency Followed Bear Attack in Slovakia

The Slovakian government recently revoked its state of emergency in 19 different districts after officials killed a brown bear that had been roaming the area. 

According to Wednesday’s announcement by the Ministry of the Environment, officials issued the emergency declaration after the bear entered the city of Liptovský Mikuláš on March 17 and attacked five people.

Officials explained that the bear attacked people on a bridge, while they were shopping, and in the streets of the city. Eventually, it swam across a river, which is where authorities began tracking it. 

Authorities continued tracking the bear for several days and nights and pushed it into a nearby forest. They located it using a “drone with biometrics” to identify it and then killed it. 

In response to the attacks, the Slovakian Ministry of Interior issued a statement, announcing plans to submit a constitutional amendment to allow civilians to shoot and kill bears on sight.  

Slovakia’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Environment Tomáš Taraba issued a statement saying he wants to give the country’s opposition party a chance to show that they’re “on the side of citizens” or “crazy non-governmental organizations that consider bears vegetarians.” 

Filip Kuffa, who heads Slovakia’s Ministry of Interior, explained that the rampage was the result of “incompetent decisions of previous governments.” 

“The bear’s natural habitat is saturated, and bears are also expanding into areas outside their natural habitat,” Kuffa said. “As a result of the enormously high number of bears, changes in behavior and loss of shyness in front of people.”

According to reports, Slovakia is preparing for a presidential election next week and the issue of bear attacks has become politically charged. Officials say there were 20 incidents last year alone. Additionally, opponents of the ruling party believe authorities killed the wrong bear and are just looking for an issue to campaign on. 

Wildlife experts with the Slovak Wildlife Society also dismiss the characterizations of the attacks, saying there doesn’t seem to be any evidence that they were predatory attacks. 

British-born zoologist Robin Rigg, who chairs the organization, told Wired: “It’s extremely rare in Europe to have predatory attacks, and it’s not a common thing anywhere in the world.” 

Rigg added that the incident occurred in areas where bears are known to hibernate. “What can sometimes happen is that the bear reacts aggressively in defending itself, which is what I think is most likely to have happened in this case—that it was startled by these two people appearing,” he said.

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