Looking for bears in the Carpathians

The Carpathians snake through Europe, from southern Poland where they are called the Tatras through to the Alps.  A friend of mine who cycled from London to Delhi seemed to mainly remember steep climbs into the Carpathians when I told him I was visiting Romania! I was there in search of brown bears. I had heard that the largest concentration of bears in Europe is in Romania. The story, as you might imagine, is a mixed one!  Bears are iconic, but close up they are very dangerous. They don't like being surprised! So singing loudly as you walk through the beech woods is recommended. I saw the bears from the safety of hides. Some hide owners feed the bears with so much food that the bears alter their lives in light of reliable feeding. The males who are normally solitary will allow other bears to share their territory. Bears who get habituated to regular food (for example the rubbish bins in Brasov) may become dangerous when humans gets close. Where hide-owners are less generous in the food they put out, visits by bears may be fairly regular, but the small tit bits won't alter the bears behaviour. In the fading light of an October evening I photographed this bear who'd be lured to the hide by maize. The debate about bears is highlighted by the desire of some people to shoot this 'trophy' animal which can earn the landowner £25,000 per head. Paying to visit the hides seemed to me the better option.

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