Slovak Wildlife Society
Damage by bears to beehives is one of the most prevalent human-bear conflicts in Slovakia, accounting for 29% of all post hoc compensation payments for damage by bears between 2005 – 2016. Such negative aspects of bears receive disproportionate media coverage, promoting a sense of fear and fuelling calls for substantial reductions in bear numbers. There is a need to demonstrate viable and effective non-lethal alternatives to killing bears or confining ‘problem bears’ in captivity.
The overall goal is to facilitate coexistence of people and bears, which is essential if the latter is to survive in the long-term in Central Europe’s human-dominated landscapes.
Project activities will focus on the installation and maintenance of high quality, bear-proof electric fencing to demonstrate best practices in combination with a survey of beekeepers’ experience and attitudes. It is planned to install 5 electric fences for a year. Fences will be monitored for bear activity by means of camera traps, tracking and interviewing the beekeepers. We will conduct a survey of beekeepers’ experience and attitudes to improve understanding of the issues they face.
The first workshop ‘Brown Bear Management in Slovakia’ was held in July 2011. Hunters, foresters, nature conservationists, government representatives, farmers and beekeepers, as well as representatives from the police and the university attended the workshop. Dr. Alistair Bath skilfully led the different parties with conflicting interests towards finding solutions and reaching agreement. Dr. Bath is an expert in the area of Human Dimensions in Wildlife Management. All participants, including the Department for Environment, expressed the wish to participate in a second workshop. This workshop was held in October of the same year and was equally successful. A subsequent workshop was organised in 2012, and a conceptual management plan for the brown bear in Slovakia was drawn.
Several years later the State Nature Conservancy of the Slovak Republic has begun preparing management plan-type documents for the bear / wolf / lynx / wildcat. Undoubtedly, the groundwork for the bear plan was layed down by Dr. Bath and SWS.
Bear Emergency Team (BET) A ‘BET’ swings into action as soon as a bear is sighted near areas inhabited by humans. Acting swiftly is beneficial to both humans and bears. The members of a BET are appointed by the Department for Environment. Bears in Mind has provided funds in order to organise a Bear Emergency Team training session. The training is provided by Dr. Djuro Huber, a Croatian bear expert who has been collaborating with Bears in Mind for quite some time. The team also strives to help avoid conflict involving bears and assists the government with registration of all bear-related incidents. This also includes traffic accidents involving bears.
Inappropiate disposal of waste is a serious problem. Especially in bear habitat, near hotels and campsites in the mountains where open containers are still used and attract bears in search for an easy meal. Bears in Mind and Slovak Wildlife Society (SWS) aim to prevent this by using bear-prooof waste containers, that can’t be opened by the bears. Educating the public is the other side of the medal. As website was specially developed in 2005, (www.medvede.sk), a film and education material created. By giving lectures in schools, public houses and hotels by the team from SWS, people are being informed about the ways to coexist with bears.
Slovakia ‘bear proof’ At a hotel in the High Tatra mountains the first bear-proof container protoype B was tested. A young bear, a regular ‘guest’ at the hotel, could not open the container. The idea is, in the coming years, that many such conatiners will be produced and placed where people are motivated to deal with the problems. At the same time practical solutions will be handed out, like placing containers in barns or building an electrical fence around the containers. Each specific location requires its own solution.