Ljubljana related

16 Aug 2019, 16:10 PM

STA, 16 August 2019 - Amid escalating tensions over action in response to a growing number of wolf attacks on farm animals in Slovenia, 13,462 people have signed a petition urging against the planned culling of bears and wolves.

The petition, initiated by the animal rights group AniMa, was handed to Environment Minister Simon Zajc on Friday to "have the voice of reason heard when it comes to man's coexistence with bears and wolves".

The initiator of the petition, Andreja Galinec, reported with disappointment after the meeting that "we failed to prevent the culling".

"The answer we received was that the culling will not be halted," Nevenka Lukić Rojšek of AniMa said.

According to the ministry, Minster Zajc stressed at the meeting the the emergency act on culling was "addressing the burning issue of bear and wolf overpopulation and was needed at this moment to get the numbers back to a level that is also favourable for the local human population".

Zajc also announced he would inquire with his ministerial colleagues in the EU if there was a chance of one of the European countries accepting Slovenian bears and wolves.

He added the issue of overpopulation and management of bear and wolf populations needed to be removed from the realm of politics and returned to experts as soon as possible.

The group had proposed that the government immediately issue a moratorium on the emergency act regulating the culling and form a task force to analyse the state of affairs and find solutions that would not be dictated by political pressure.

Urging long-term measures to preserve wildlife and protect farm animals, the group says that Slovenia needs to preserve its population of wild animals as a key to preserve the balance of nature.

"Hunters have been interfering too much in this balance, and the price is now being paid by farmers, who a while ago demanded the culling of deer because of the damage to their crops," they say.

Arguing that there are also those among "the 22,000 armed people considered hunters" who use hunting as "a profitable business and cruel entertainment at the expense of animals", they believe that hunting for deer should be restricted and much better controlled, while subsidies for farm animal production in wolf and bear habitats should be made conditional on preventive measures.

"We urge the government not to be held hostage by a small interest group that demands violent solutions now, without considering long-term consequences. Slovenia is us too who disagree with the culling of bears and wolves, and there are many of us," the petitioners say.

The number of wolf attacks on farm animals has more than doubled this year over the same period in 2018, after an NGO successfully challenged in court the government's 2018 decree ordering the removal of 175 bears and 11 wolves from the wild.

Data from the Institute for Forests show that nearly 680 animals had been attacked by the end of July, but the number has increased since as new attacks are reported almost on a daily basis.

To tackle the situation, parliament passed a law in June ordering an emergency culling, but while hunters have killed 75 bears, the complex rules have prevented them from culling any wolves yet.

Following a protest by farmers on Saturday, changes have been agreed to facilitate the culling.

There are an estimated 1,000 bears and 80 wolves in the country. Most of the wolves live in 14 packs, while some live alone.

While there have been two attacks by bears on humans so far this year, Miha Krofel of the Ljubljana Biotechnical Faculty has told the STA that there is no confirmed case of a wolf hurting a human in Slovenia on record.

All our stories on bears are here, those on wolves are here

14 Aug 2019, 16:00 PM

STA, 14 August 2019 - A she-bear with a cub attacked a hunter in the woods in the municipality of Ajdovščina, south-west, on Tuesday evening while he approached it unaware of its presence, the Nova Gorica Police Department said in a release on Wednesday.

The police explained the 67-year-old hunter had sat under a tree when he noticed a 150-kilogramme bear with a cub some 10 metres away.

The bear attacked him, biting his leg and scratching his head and body when the hunter started to yell to chase it away.

He sought medical assistance at the local emergency unit on his own, but the injuries were not as severe to require hospitalisation, so he is recovering at home.

The Forest Service, one of the main national organisations in charge of wild animal populations, was notified of the attack to take required measures.

However, analysing the attack it said it was a result of an unlucky coincidence when a hunter ran into a bear with a cub.

And since the incident occurred in the forest rather than near a town, the bear was assessed not to be aggressive so it will be monitored rather than culled.

This was a second bear attack on people this year, said the Forest Service, adding a long-term average is two to three attacks a year.

The first took place at the end of June, when an 80-year-old woman was attacked by a female bear with two cubs near her village some 15 kilometres south of Ljubljana.

Hunters were then ordered to kill the bear and both of its cubs, but could not do it because activists prevented the decree from being implemented.

Once the decree expired, the Forest Service decided not to extend it because there were no other encounters with the bear.

Just two days before this year's first bear attack, parliament passed an emergency bill to reduce the bear and wolf populations by 200 and eleven, respectively.

The law was needed to end the deadlock resulting from the Administrative Court banning bear culling upon an NGO's appeal against a government decree.

This resulted in the bear populations growing rapidly, to some 1,000, whereas the wolf population is estimated at around 80.

But the emergency law has been severely criticised by farmers and hunters, as wolf and bear attacks are continuing.

Hunters have culled 75 bears under the emergency law but not a single wolf since severe restrictions apply to wolf hunting, so they risk high fines.

The rules were somewhat loosened at yesterday's high-profile meeting hosted by the environment minister.

All our stories on bears are here, and those on hunting are here

10 Aug 2019, 17:47 PM

STA, 10 August 2019 - Farmers demanded a significant decrease in the country's wolf population at a rally in Velike Lašče on Saturday. They believe wolf population must be restricted to a fenced-in reserve in state-owned forests and demand preferential treatment for people living in wolf-populated areas.

Addressing the rally this morning, president of the Farmers' Trade Union Anton Medved said that the union would not agree to having to fence in the entire countryside.

"Just like farmers are obligated to prevent our animals from causing damage to neighbours, the state is obligated to take care of its wild animals, so that they will not cause damage to Slovenian farmers, said the president of the union that organised the rally.

He also said it was unacceptable that the wolf population had spread into the Alps, where a number attacks have been reported this year.

A banner spanning over the stage showed the map of Slovenia with dozens of red dots indicating the locations of attacks that happened in the past six months.

While most of the attacks happened in the southern regions of Dolenjska and Notranjska, the map also showed about a dozen attacks in the Alps of the northwestern region of Gorenjska.

Moreover, Medved demanded that the the state should recognise a lower standard of living for people living in areas with wild animal population, thus introducing tax relieves and development incentives to their benefit.

He also called on Environment and Spatial Planning Minister Simon Zajc to resign. The minister meanwhile responded by saying that the call for resignation was unfounded.

He said in a written statement that he was completely aware of the seriousness of the situation and that he expects those charged with implementing the recently passed intervention law, ordering the kill of 11 wolves, to come up with solutions to do this faster.

Medved said in his speech thta "the Farmers' Trade Union will do everything it can for the Slovenian countryside to remain cultivated, inhabited and to become safe again".

"Only this way will it be attractive for the young... and only this way will Slovenia be able to produce sufficient amounts of food to sustain it through any form of emergency situations."

Until their demands are met, the union is set on staging rallies every weekend. In a week, they will protest in Ilirska Bistrica and a week later in Gornja Radgona, where the country's biggest agricultural and food fair, AGRA, will be taking place.

The protest was also addressed by Agriculture and Food Minister Aleksandra Pivec, who said that the two relevant ministries, her's and the Environment Ministry, and the entire government were determined to tackle the situation.

She also said that these issues should not become political, but should be left to experts.

The latter, on the other hand, do not enjoy much respect among farmers, who believe that experts are at fault that the wild animal populations have reached such high numbers.

According to estimates, there are some 1,000 bears in Slovenia and nearly 90 wolves, living in 14 packs. Farmers and many hunters also believe that the number of wolves slated to be killed is too low and that the intervention act, which was passed in June summer, was ineffective because it imposed too many conditions.

The number of wolf attacks on farm animals has doubled this year over the same period in 2018. Data from the Institute for Forests show that nearly 680 animals had been attacked by the end of July.

Official data show that wolf attacked nearly 580 sheep and goats, but they also attacked larger animals: 41 horses and 34 bovine, as well as two dogs. By now, the total figure has exceeded 700, as new attacks are reported every few days.

All our stories on wolves in Slovenia are here, while bears in Slovenia are here

06 Aug 2019, 12:02 PM

STA, 5 August 2019 - The Jurišče village near Pivka in south-western Slovenia saw a mass wolf attack on sheep on Sunday. The Slovenian Farmers' Trade Union has announced a protest to draw attention to the issue of such attacks becoming more frequent, saying Slovenia could not cope with the current number of wild animals.

Between 15 and 20 wolves slaughtered 12 sheep during the night and injured another 10 despite protective measures, including fencing and shepherd dogs.

A number of injured sheep will have to be put down, and one of shepherd dogs was also hurt during the attack.

Without the dogs, the attack could have been even more deadly, Florjan Peternelj of the Farmers' Trade Union told the STA on Monday.

He pointed out that Slovenia could not handle so many wild animals as there are currently in the country, highlighting the recent spike in wolf and bear attacks.

According to studies, Slovenia can cope with some 100 bears and two wolf packs at most, he said, adding that any extra animals could not survive because of a lack of food.

There are some 100 wolves in Slovenia, and the attacks have been on the rise because Administrative Court orders on culling had not been carried out due to appeals by NGOs.

An emergency bill authorising hunters to shoot 175 bears and 11 wolves was passed in parliament in June. Some bears have already been culled, but no wolves.

In the wake of these attacks becoming increasingly frequent, the trade union will organise a protest in Velike Lašče, south of Ljubljana, on Saturday.

It invites, according to Peternelj, all affected farmers and people who would like to fight for a safer countryside.

All our stories about wolves are here, and bears are here

03 Aug 2019, 11:10 AM

STA, 2 August 2019 - Environment Minister Simon Zajc called for coexistence between people and wolves as he visited on Friday the Cerkljansko region, where wolf attacks on livestock have become increasingly frequent. He pointed to measures that protect humans and their property from wolves.

Two attacks occurred at the same time last Sunday, which means that two packs of wolves are currently in the region.

Hunting officials have been given the green light to cull one wolf and the minister hopes that this reduction will deter any other wolves from visiting villages and attacking.

"Our task is to enable coexistence. Coexistence means that people do not live in fear, that there are possibilities for development and that we have sufficient wolf population," the minister said.

A number of measures are necessary to meet these targets, including subsidised school transport, fencing and culling, he added.

The minister noted that there had been a spike in wolf attacks on farm animals. The increase is, according to him, a result of not carrying out Administrative Court orders on culling in the past.

Wolf is a territorial animal, which moves on when the space gets scarce. The presence of wolves in the region has been proven and the population has been expanding, he said.

The authorities have expanded their monitoring area and the Environment Ministry is working on solutions in cooperation with the Agriculture Ministry.

The minister expressed confidence that experts would set an appropriate figure for culling.

During today's visit, the minister met local mayors and civil initiative representatives as well as farmers who have been affected by the attacks.

The founder of an initiative for the removal of dangerous wild animals, Ivan Mavri, said after the meeting that the organisation demanded measures that would restore a sense of security in the region, but conceded that this would not happen overnight.

According to Mavri, the locals want this area to be completely wolf-free.

Marko Gasser, one of the people who have suffered most damage during the attacks, said that a number of locals had submitted a request to the ministry to define the areas where wolves would be allowed to hunt, excluding the Gorenjska and north Primorska regions.

According to Zajc, there are currently between 88 and 100 wolves in Slovenia.

Under the law on extraordinary culling of bears and wolves, which entered into force at the end of June, a total of 62 bears have been culled so far, and no wolves, according to the national Forest Service.

The law permits the culling of 175 bears and 11 wolves, which is more than 10% of the population of both animals in Slovenia, with the service estimating the bear population at around 1,000 and the wolf population at 100.

The most of the damage is being done by wolves, which this year attacked more than 500 domestic animals, more than double compared to the same period last year.

The Forest Service dealt with a total of 406 cases of damage done by wolves this year, with the total amount being estimated at EUR 312,000.

13 Jun 2019, 12:53 PM

STA, 12 June 2019 - The government adopted an intervention bill ordering the culling of overgrown bear and wolf populations on Wednesday. The move comes after a decree with the same order was successfully challenged by an environmental NGO in Administrative Court, leading to a steep increase in wolf and bear attacks on farm animals this year.

The bill stipulates the "removal" of 200 bears, of which 175 are to be culled, while the rest is expected to perish naturally or in car accidents or other incidents. Moreover, 11 wolves are to be culled.

Slovenia is home to 12 wolf packs, each five to ten strong, Agriculture Minister Aleksandra Pivec said as she announced this bill earlier this week. She also said that wolves alone had killed 72 sheep, 19 cows, 15 horses, a donkey and two other farm animals this year.

Slovenia's bear population, which was on the brink of extinction in early 20th century, is estimated at about 1,000, whereas a population of some 400 bears is deemed optimal.

While bear attacks have also caused significant damage in agriculture, with livestock herds decimated in some cases, the government also says that there is a significant risk of bear attacks on humans.

Experts believe that Slovenia's bear population has reached a number that should not be exceeded, underlining that acceptance of big carnivores by the population is key in successful management of their population.

Slovenia has been nearing a boiling point in this respect, with farmers and agricultural associations staging rallies to protest against the government's inaction in the face of their decimated herds.

The bill, drafted by the Ministry of Agriculture, has been filed by the Ministry of Environment, which is in charge of large carnivores management in Slovenia.

Meanwhile, the parliamentary environment and agriculture committees will hold a joint session this afternoon to discuss the attacks of bears and wolves on livestock.

30 May 2019, 12:40 PM

STA, 29 May 2019 - Several local civil initiatives demand legislative changes and an immediate cull of bears and wolves in areas where livestock is being attacked, in what is an escalation of long-simmering tensions over how to deal with Slovenia's growing population of large carnivores.

In a letter addressed to Prime Minister Marjan Šarec earlier this week, three civil initiatives demand that hunters immediately shoot the number of bears and wolves designate for culling by the Forest Service.

They also want jackal, whose numbers have been growing rapidly in recent years, to be designated as game animal.

Related: Hunting an Ageing Pursuit in Slovenia, and Killing a Bear Costs Between €600 and 6,500 (Feature)

The appeal is the latest instalment of a long dispute that has pitted environmentalists against farmers, scientists and hunters in a fight over what to do with large game in Slovenia.

The bear and wolf population is kept in check with an annual cull and this year the Forest Service proposed that 200 bears be shot, a decision based on scientific estimates of the bear population. Wolves are not slated for culling this year.

But environmentalists challenged the subsequent government decree at the Administrative Court, which refrained from deciding on the cull as such but ordered the government to adopt a new decree setting the number of animals slated for culling.

In the meantime, farmers are reporting increasing damage by bears and wolves and have recently staged a protest in Ljubljana bringing cadavers of animals killed by bears.

The civil initiatives from Kočevje, Notranjska and Primorska, areas in western Slovenia that are home to Slovenia's bear population, now demand that the government also change the law to give expert institutions including the Forest Service, Hunting Association and Chamber of Agriculture and Forestry exclusive say over culling.

Related: In Search of Brown Bears in Slovenia

"The decision-making procedure must be exempt from the legal frameworks of the administrative procedure law and preclude the option of appeal from anyone," the associations said.

Locals would have majority say in any culling decisions and no projects involving large carnivores or other game would be possible without local approval.

Another major demand is to bring the population levels of large carnivores, deer and wild boar to 1990 levels to reduce damage to forests and farmland.

Slovenia is considered by many as a role model for management of large carnivores, but its linchpin has been the regular culling of a very healthy and growing population.

From near extinction in the early 20th century, the population rose to an estimated 700 animals by 2015, according to data by the Biotechnical Faculty.

Scientists have warned that acceptance by locals is key to management as well, with Klemen Jerina, one of the most prominent bear researchers in Slovenia, recently saying that they support the cull of 200 animals.

"But we've come to a point where we believe there are enough bears. If the number continues to grow, the number of conflicts will increase as well," he said in February.

Environmentalists, on the other hand, base their opposition to the cull on the animals' inherent right to live.

26 Apr 2019, 17:50 PM

STA, 26 April 2019 - The Farmers' Trade Union staged a protest on Friday, demanding that the government take immediate action, as a growing bear population is causing considerable damage to herds. Agriculture Ministry State Secretary Marko Maver promised farmers that an extraordinary kill measure would be ordered to mitigate the situation.

The protest was staged ten days after the Administrative Court sided with an environmental NGO that challenged the ministry's order to kill 200 bears this year.

The bear population is estimated at 750 in Slovenia, while in the early 1990s it was at 350. Currently, the population expands by 200 bears a year and could reach nearly 1,000 by the end of the year unless 200 are killed or relocated.

Unionist Roman Žveglič said that the ministry staff had listened carefully and promised to launch the measure of extraordinary killing in places where bears were causing the most damage.

Maver told the press that the ministry understood the distress of farmers. "We are all aware of the importance of sustainable management of bear population."

The ministry will moreover appeal the Administrative Court's decision and is drafting "additional documents on why the proposed number is justified," said Maver.

Žveglič said that in case the ministry failed to provide assistance, farmers would stage civil disobedience. "This means that we will start hunting wild animals ourselves, poisoning and shooting them."

At the rally, staged in front of the ministry, Florjan Peternel, a farmer from Ilirska Bistrica (SW), brought with him the remains of calves attacked by bears.

Until recently, his herd had no calves due to bear attacks in 2017 and 2018. "A fortnight ago, calvings started and 15 cows had calves. But yesterday, disaster struck. None survived."

All our stories about bears in Slovenia can be found here

16 Jan 2019, 18:00 PM

January 16, 2019

Dormice have been hunted for centuries in Slovenia. Nevertheless, unlike many other wild and edible species their numbers continue to persist, which is why polhanje, as the activity is called in Slovenian, managed to continue into the present. The hunting season officially begins every first of October, and different to the majority of such seasons is open to the broader public, anyone who has applied for a special dormouse hunting permit which is relatively easy to get.

Hunting for dormice has changed significantly over the years, as it has gradually moved from an economic necessity towards the preservation of a tradition of socializing at night in the forests, an event of drinking and hanging out that can often conclude without a single mouse being caught.

Dormice were a delicacy in Roman times, and hence the species’ alternative name, edible dormouse, although the habit of eating them only seems to have persisted in Slovenia and Croatia. Let’s take a deeper look into the folklore that helps to put these adorable creatures on a plate, and how it has changed over the centuries.

Habitat and habits of a Slovenian dormouse

In Slovenia, the dormouse, although found almost everywhere, is most common in Inner and Lower Carniola, that is notranjska and dolenjska. In terms of altitude, its habitat is limited by the beech forest, given that beechnuts are an important part of the diet of these animals. The dormouse is an omnivorous creature who likes to eat everything from insects, even tiny birds, to soft fruits, leaves and seeds. Nevertheless, its successful hibernation mostly depends on what it can eat from beech, oak and hornbeam trees.

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A fat dormouse                                                    Photo:Tambako The Jaguar, Flickr, CC BY-ND 2.0
 

Dormice spend most of the day in holes in the ground or tree trunks, or in between roots, in birdnests, under the roof tops or other shelters. At night they move along the tree branches and are quite good at jumping, said to be even better than squirrels.

Hunting technique

All of this is a very important information when it comes to hunting, as what hunter has to offer in his self-triggering trap must really be very delicious if a fat, autumn dormouse is going to crawl inside and take the bait. Such an animal isn’t going to get caught for a snack it can easily find in the forest.

Typically, bait would be placed into a wooden self-triggering trap, which was put on a long hazel stick and hanged on a tree. 

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Dormouse traps, Slovene Etnographic Museum Ljubljana           Photo: JL Flanner
 
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Placing the trap in the tree, 1964                   Photo: Slovenian Etnographic Museum, digital collection
 

Although the recipe for dormouse bait is every hunter’s cherished secret, the word is out there that it should include a drop of fine pear brandy with a pinch of cinnamon. That is, of course, if you really want to catch, kill, skin, de-gut, cook and eat a dormouse. Most of the people who go on a polhanje today are not that much into hunting, and often spend the night without making a single catch, not caring as long as the company is good, other, less formerly cute foods are available, and the drinks are abundant.

Tradition

The first record of dormice hunt and eating in Slovenia dates back to the 13th century, and was later described in detail by the Slovenian historian Janez Vajkard Valvasor. Dormice used to present an important source of protein for Slovenian peasants, while their fat was also used for healing wounds. Dormice kučma-like hats (polhovka) have since the Birth of Nation (in the middle of the 19th century) been a symbol of Slovenia, and were even banned by the Nazis during WWII. After the war, this hat was placed on the head of the New Year figure Dedek mraz, to make him more Slovenian, not Russian, after the Soviet-Yugoslav split in 1948.

The main goal of polhanje is not to catch a few dozen small animals for a memorable feast, but rather in preserving the tradition of life in nature, and above all such meetings are fun social events that takes place after dark in the forest.

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Picture "Still life" taken by Bojan Štefančič in Matjaž Žnidaršič during polhanje at Cencov dol in Menišija in 1976
 
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Returning from polhanje night, Begunje, cerknica,1980; Photo: mama Julka (ownership of Breda Turšič)
 
07 Jan 2019, 12:24 PM

January 7, 2019

The administrative court suspended the implementation of the decree on the removal of brown bears from nature, which the government endorsed at the end of last November. According to the decree, 200 bears were planned to be taken out of Slovenian forests. Among these, 175 were supposed to be shot, while the remaining 25 were expected to die due to accidents or other causes.

Related: Brown bear photography in Slovenia

In December, the environmental protection organisation Alpe Adria Green (AAG) brought an action against the decree and a request for an interim injunction. The group is convinced that the decree violates the Nature Conservation Act, the Habitats Directive and the Constitution. The AAG noted that the government endorsed the decree despite numerous complaints on its drafting, and that the Ministry of Environment and Spatial Planning did not answer the requests for an explanation as to why such a number of bears had to be removed from nature. At the same time, the AAG expressed its expectation that the decree will also be annulled.

This is not the first time that the court has intervened in the destiny of large wildlife in Slovenia. The same decree that involves bears previously included eleven wolves to be taken out of nature, but after a public hearing the wolves were removed from the proposed cull. The Environmental Ministry took this decision after two judgments of the administrative court, which ruled that the reason for shooting the wolves, which was given as preventing the animals from killing livestock, and thus maintaining public acceptance of wolves, was not sufficiently substantiated.

All out stories about bears in Slovenia are here.

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