Two years after he was released into the Spanish Pyrenees as part of a conservation programme, Goiat the brown bear faces expulsion over a predatory rampage that has enraged local farmers.
The 31-stone male was captured in Slovenia and transferred to the Alt Pireneu (High Pyrenees) National Park in Catalonia in 2016 as part of a European project to save the brown bear population in the region.
But Goiat, whose name means “lad” in Catalan, is now to be ejected after embarking on a killing spree against local livestock. The troublemaking bear is blamed for no less than 15 attacks since April, including the deaths of six horses and four foals, as well as several sheep.
Under pressure from farmers, the Catalan government has announced plans to capture and remove Goiat. But his fate remains unknown: options include moving him to a bear sanctuary, returning him to the wild in Slovenia or even euthanasia – the latter a last resort that authorities admit would prove highly controversial.
Any decision must also meet with the approval of French authorities, partners in the Pyroslife project.
Designed to prevent the disappearance of the brown bear from the Pyrenees, the programme has been highly successful in boosting numbers, which dwindled to just three in the 1990s but have recovered to 43 today. However, conservationists were concerned that the majority of the renewed population were the offspring of just one particularly virile male, Pyros, another Slovenian bear brought in in 1997 who is reported to mate even with his own grandchildren.
Brought in to diversify the bloodline, Goiat, it was hoped, would counter Pyros’s genetic predominance among the Pyrenean bears.
But locals say conservationists have failed to consider the impact of his less amorous predilections. Joan Caball, coordinator of Unió de Pagesos, Catalonia’s largest agricultural union, welcomed the plan to remove the wayward bear, saying people had to come before animals.
One single specimen cannot put in danger 20 years of successful workFerran Miralles, director general of environmental policy
“Goiat has demonstrated that the introduction of the brown bear has brought problems. We have to consider what number of animals we can host in the territory. There is a lot of misunderstanding about the difficulties we face in the countryside,” Mr Caball told the Barcelona-based daily La Vanguardia.
Jaume Grau, of Ecologists in Action, acknowledged the farmers were “right to complain that us urbanites sometimes don’t know everything about how they live there”. However, he stressed, agreement had to be reached to ensure the brown bear’s survival in the region.
"One single specimen cannot put in danger 20 years of successful work," Ferran Miralles, director general of environmental policy in the Catalan government, told the paper.