Bears terrorize isolated villagers

IOANNINA – Brown bears in the mountains of northwestern Greece have been so successful at reproducing under a recent scheme that isolated villagers have begun barricading themselves in for protection. Events took a particularly dramatic turn recently in the village of Anilio Metsovou, in the Pindos mountains near Albania, when an 85-year-old woman was found dead near a sheep pen. Bear-like footprints could be seen near her bloodied body. Earlier this month, a local newspaper reported how a huntsman from the same village had come face to face with a bear, which attacked his dogs before fleeing. Further north, the elderly inhabitants of the isolated village of Makrino Zagoriou have in recent months woken several times to find ancestral graves desecrated after bears came to eat the oil of lamps burning in the cemetery. Another bear got into a cellar in the village and tore the throats out of two goats before being chased away by their owner, Achilles Spyridamis. Now, men of the village mount regular armed patrols while the women no longer dare venture out after sunset. Floodlights and electric fences have been put up to protect gardens and vegetable plots. Costas Ziabiris, president of the Epirus Hunters Federation, told local newspapers that «the number of wild animals, in particular bears and wolves, has risen dangerously… and there will be more human victims unless something is done.» «There isn’t enough food for so many wild animals in the region,» Ziabiris continued, calling on environmental organizations to assume their responsibilities – in particular the high-profile bear-protection organization Arcturos. According to Arcturos’s scientific director, George Mertzanis, the bears are «having a particularly stressful time» at the moment, following a harsh winter and a consequent lack of food in the wild. «Given the conditions, bears can’t resist going into villages, it’s normal, hunters and the locals know this,» he told AFP.

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