Slovakia proposes law allowing bears to be shot near villages

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Slovakia wants to make it easier to shoot bears that the government says pose a danger to villages.

The Environment Ministry said Wednesday a draft constitutional law would be fast-tracked in parliament to allow local authorities and authorized hunters to take down bears approaching human settlements.

Under current rules, bears can only be killed once they have been driven away from dwellings or back into the forest. Under the proposed new rules, authorized staff would be able to shoot them within 500 meters of villages’ borders.

The draft law comes after a woman died in March, falling into a ravine, after she was chased by a bear; five people were injured in a separate attack.

Environment Minister Tomáš Taraba, who represents the far-right Slovak National Party and put forward the draft legislation, has been pushing to loosen protection rules for bears both at the national and the European levels.

At a meeting of EU environment ministers last week, Taraba called on the European Commission to downgrade the protection status of the brown bear.

Bears are a protected species under EU law, meaning their culling is strictly regulated and should not undermine their long-term conservation.

The legislative fast track removes some barriers in the parliament, but Taraba will still need broad support for it to pass.

“In a short time, we will give the opposition a chance to show whether it is on the side of the citizens, their health and lives, or with various irresponsible non-governmental organizations who say that bears are herbivores and citizens are not in danger,” the minister said in a press release.

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