Within the year 2012, eight brown bears have died on the streets of Northern Greece, as a result of road accidents. Since 2003, more than 30 bears have died on roads, which cross through their habitats. This year however has been particularly worrying, since most of the bears killed have been only one or two years old, young or baby bears, during the education phase by their mother. Taking into account that the mountain area of Pindos in Northwest Greece is the habitat of one of the last few remaining populations of brown bears in Europe (with a population of about 200 animals), and that bears give birth to one or two cubs every 2-3 years, the current rate of deaths signal the extinction of a whole generation of bears! Many accidents occur at the relatively new highway of Egnatia Odos, but the majority of them in the past few years have occurred at a specific segment of the provincial road Siatista-Krystallopigi near Florina.
We ask the Greek Ministry of Environment, as well as the European Environment Agency, to help implement appropriate measures to ensure that endangered bears are protected. These include:
a) fencing the risky segments of the road Siatista-Krystallopigi and Egnatia Odos, where most of the accidents have occurred
b) preventing excessive car speed at the most dangerous provincial roads of Grevena, Kozani and Florina, which are often crossed by bears in their hunt for food, by introducing road bumps and strictly enforcing low speed limits.
As food for many bears has become increasingly scarce, they have to walk unusually long miles and cross the highway unusually often, in their effort to survive. It is important to keep the remaining habitats and forests intact, as far as possible, from human exploitation.
Bears used to live throughout Europe, but in the last two centuries their population has decreased by 60%, with only a few isolated patches left, of a small number of individuals each. With a history of over 35 million years, this gorgeous animal is too valuable to just let be run over or starved into extinction. The bear should not have to pay the price for our own comfort!
P.S. Man's intervention is affecting bears' lives in a multitude of negative ways. For more information about bear protection in Greece please visit www.arcturos.gr and www.kallisto.gr
Picture by arcturos.gr is of the bear "Eirini" protected at the bear shelter of Arcturos in Florina