Carpathian Bear Endangered

Currently, there are some 2,510 Carpathian bears in the Carpathian woods, compared with almost 8,000 registered in 1989. The late Nicolae Ceausescu hunted approximately 4,000 bears while he was the president of Romania. The bear is an endangered species hunted by poachers. One bear skin is worth Euro 7,000 on the trophy market.A slow, tranquil hill slope descends toward the houses hidden by winter. Proud fir-trees testify to the wood wealth of the Harghita land. "In the old days, these hills were covered with forests," a local woman tells us.
But illegal cutting of forests and hunting are jeopardizing the ecological balance, and the forest guards in the area are very powerful people locally. They all own rural hotels and expensive vehicles, and they have developed wood businesses. They have cut trees like crazy. Some former owners who got their nationalized forests back actually received bare lands, without trees, the locals say.
A mature tree has four cubic meters of wood, and the price of one cubic meter of timber is Euro 100. So, deforestation has been the most profitable business in Harghita. Without investing any money at all, one can get four times the average nation-wide salary per month by cutting one tree.
Currently, forests account for 27 percent of Romania's surface. It may seem like a lot at first sight, but the European average is 32 percent, while in Germany it is 37 percent, environmentalists say. Harghita: "house in the woods"Bears are being massacred without mercy. In Harghita, they have the so called "house in the woods," a name the Securitate came up with under Ceausescu's regime. It is a small construction with two narrow windows erected in the middle of the forest. Hunters hide inside. In front of this "house," they have a metal cage where they put an animal carcass. A dead cow or horse.
The bears are attracted by the smell of the blood and they come close. But the bear cannot take the carcass out of the cage, so he stays in to eat it. This is how he is trapped and cruelly shot by the hunters hiding in the chalet. This is how Nicolae Ceausescu shot his 4,000 bears.
In the late 1980s, there were 7,780 bears in Romania, out of which 1,185 in Harghita. Statistics prove that, in one decade only, the number of bears decreased by 31 percent: in 1997 there were 5,366 of them left. The statistics in Harghita County are even more alarming: 570 bears were exterminated before 1997, and only 250 bears were still there in 2003.Illegalities exterminating the Carpathian bear
The hunting quotas are set too high, bears are infected by the use of animal carcasses to feed them, hunters use closed "houses" to hunt bears, and bears are hunted in their lairs and pursued on their hibernating areas in winter. Then there is poaching, pregnant females are massacred in autumn and spring, when the cubs are in lairs, and young bears are caught to be kept in captivity. 
Evenimentul Zilei, February 11, 2005 Translated by Monica Voiculescu

by Emilian Isăilă